U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito dissented against the decision to guarantee gay marriage rights in 2015. So when he circled back on that Thursday, the only surprise should be that he did it publicly.

Alito stoked another high-court political fire. He revisited his stance on how gay marriage adversely affects free speech as he spoke virtually to the annual lawyers convention of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

“You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” Alito told the group Thursday night. “Until recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now, it’s considered bigotry. That this would happen after our decision in Obergefell (v. Hodges in 2015) should not have come as a surprise.”

That Alito, 70, feels this way should not have come as a surprise. It is along the lines of opinions he previously made and reiterated, but the backlash was no different.

Homophobic rhetoric isn’t a matter of free speech,” Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) wrote Friday on Twitter. “It’s a matter of hate speech. These are stunning, harmful words from Justice Alito.”

Alito tied the cases to religious liberty.

“It’s often just an excuse for bigotry and can’t be tolerated, even when there is not evidence that anybody has been harmed,” Alito said during the 30-minute speech. “The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs.”

Alito cited Nevada rulings that were more restrictive on churches than casinos, and called the pandemic a “stress test” that could have carryover on freedoms, including free speech.

“Although that freedom is falling out of favor in some circles, we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier constitutional right,” Alito said.

Case in point: Alito was roundly criticized for remarks in this speech.

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