"These people are not being asked to engage in gay sex or even endorse gay sex," Jillette, half of the comedy-illusionist duo Penn & Teller, said Wednesday as part of a panel discussion on CNN hosted by Don Lemon. "They're being asked to sell flowers and cake to people."
Critics of the law and others like it have said it gives cover to business owners who reject homosexuality on religious grounds and don't want to do business with gays and lesbians. The legislation has provoked boycotts and calls for changes to it
from across the country.
But it also has fervent supporters who argue that the rights of religious business owners are being trampled on.
"What we have seen across this nation is that the government has begun attacking people of faith who simply want to live consistently both at home and in work with their religious beliefs," Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom said during the panel discussion.
"We have numerous cases right now where the government is seeking to not just punish people for their religious beliefs about marriage, but literally coerce them, to take everything that they won from them, simply because they won't create unique expressions. That violates their religion, and that is un-American," she said.
Predictably, the heated exchange generated lots of reaction on social media.
" 'I'm only going to sell you flowers if you do things I approve of with them', is a weird stance," Twitter user Frubblie wrote.
On Lemon's Facebook page, Gary Lorentzen wrote, "there is no religious doctrine in any religion that says you can't provide a service for gay people. To sell a wedding cake or flowers to a gay couple is not a sin or incorrect, immoral action."
Of course, not everyone agrees.
"People have a right to say take your business elsewhere I don't agree with you," Twitter user Jahnmaud wrote.
Others noted Jillette's libertarian attitude, which generally leans toward less government interference, and questioned why he would support such mandates.
"Why force people to sell cake and flowers against their will?" Twitter user stevegraff wrote.
Jillette said Wednesday that the issue comes down to "treating people like people."
In the end, he said, the argument will soon be settled. Most young people already support gay rights, he said, a trend that may render such debates irrelevant.
"All we need is time, and the whole thing will become a joke," he said.