"19 Kids and Counting" star Josh Duggar has come under fire from pro-LGBT groups for asserting that there is "an agenda to silence people of faith, those who hold a dissenting opinion" about same sex marriage.
Speaking at the National Organization for Marriage event on Sunday, the eldest Duggar, who works for the Family Research Council, reiterated the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, and warned that anyone who says otherwise is at risk of being silenced.
"Well, I think that right now in America there is an agenda to silence people of faith, those who hold a dissenting opinion. That's not what America was founded on. America was founded on respect, tolerance, and really not discriminating against people based on their religious convictions," he told CNSNews.com.
Duggar, who is married and currently expecting his fourth child with wife Anna, was in Washington for NOM's "March for Marriage," which took place two days before the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case expected to determine whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
"Natural marriage is something that has been clearly defined over the years," he explained. "What's really at stake here is the American family. Marriage is essential to the American family and every single child deserves a mother and a father."
Duggar's bold, Biblically-grounded comments have been with with harsh criticism from many, including pro-LGBT journalist Alvin McEwen, who penned a response in which slams the idea that Christians are discriminated against and highlights how the "anti-gay right" has "targeted" the LGBT community.
"Sorry guys, you are not victims. You never were," he writes in an op-ed for alternet.org. "I don't expect any of you to atone, but at the very least, you need to acknowledge.
He continues, "You can't escape the truth no matter how fast you run or how much influence you peddle to distance yourself from it... I'm hip to the game you are running. Nor am I the only one. So play this game as long as you can because sooner or later, all games must come to an end. And when THIS game ends, you will be the loser. LGBTs don't forget, and we don't let others forget, either."
Despite the criticism both he and his family continually encounter from pro-gay activists, Duggar encourages supporters of traditional marriage to continue to address the issue with strength and civility.
"I think that it's very clear that this is a debate that's not going to go away and think what we have to do is we have to come to this and we have to talk with civility," he said. "We have to go out there and we have to be clear in what we believe and we have to be firm in saying, look, this is where I stand ... and I think this is a topic that we need to be discussing, that we need to be having that discourse about. I think we have to realize that at the very bedrock of this issue behind marriage is the American family and we have to go and we have to stand and fight for that."
Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriage and 13 states have bans in place.