The executive vice chairman of Utah-based online retailer Overstock.com has raised eyebrows over remarks he made in reference to his state's same-sex marriage legislation, which is presently on hold pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
In reference to marriage equality, Jonathan Johnson told Deseret News he was "surprised that anyone thinks that the government should force religions to do things," and said he was inspired to found First Freedom PAC in an effort to combat what he believes could eventually lead to an infringement on the First Amendment rights of Utah citizens.
"It makes me feel like if a same-gender couple goes to an orthodox Jewish rabbi and says, 'Marry us in your synagogue,' the 22 percent [of Utah voters who feel no religious protection laws are needed, according to the article] would say he has to say yes," Johnson is quoted as saying.
Noting that the issue of religious liberties is "so tied to the same-sex marriage issue," he then added, "I can see why it's a sore spot for people."
Last July, Johnson made headlines when he began proposing an amendment to the Utah State Constitution which would specify that religious organizations "shall not be required" to recognize any "particular marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of its constitutional right of conscience or its free exercise of religion," the Daily Caller reported.
At the time, however, Johnson clarified that the proposed amendment (which he reportedly hopes to have on the 2014 ballot) didn't aim to "get in the way of gay marriage," but instead protect religious liberty.
Utah Sen. James Dabakis, who is openly gay, said he didn't see anything wrong with the measure, telling Gay Salt Lake, “No sane person I know of wants to coerce or force any religion to perform any ceremony that they are not comfortable with.”