Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed sparred with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Sunday, saying opponents of same-sex marriage should not be viewed as intolerant.
His comments came after Maddow said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that those who oppose the right for gay and lesbian couples to legally wed think public policy should "demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist."
"But you don't make any less of us exist," she added. "You're just arguing in favor of discrimination."
Saying he "can't let that go," Reed, an unapologetic social conservative, jumped in to disagree.
"This suggestion that because somebody wants to affirm the institution of marriage, that they're ipso facto intolerant – by that argument, Barack Obama was intolerant 14 months ago," he said.
Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage in May 2012, saying his views on the issue had "evolved." When he campaigned for president in 2008, Obama said he was not in favor of same-sex marriage and felt that civil unions were sufficient.
Reed also pointed to a host of other lawmakers who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which did not recognize same-sex marriages for federal purposes. The Supreme Court struck down a key part of that law last week, effectively granting same-sex married couples more than 1,000 marriage rights and benefits that heterosexual couples can receive.
But Reed said many of those who previously supported DOMA are now against it.
"By that argument, 342 members of the House, 85 members of the Senate – including, by the way, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Pat Leahy - who all voted for the law, and Bill Clinton, who signed it into law, were intolerant and motivated by an animus and a hatred for gays."
Facing pushback from Maddow, who said they all changed their minds, Reed said: "But Obama was 14 months ago."
"Was he a bigot 14 months ago?" he continued also asking the same thing about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who announced her support in March.
"Nobody's calling anyone a bigot," Maddow shot back.