Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has said she will not condemn SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes over her views on same-sex marriage.
Speaking at a Politico event, Badenoch said that while she felt differently on the issue, she understood the religious perspective and that to stop people from being able to express it would be "overly draconian".
Forbes, Scotland's finance minister and a committed Christian, has come under pressure over her views since announcing her bid to become the next SNP leader following Nicola Sturgeon's resignation.
Forbes stood by her views earlier this week in an interview with STV, despite some early backers withdrawing their support for her campaign.
Wading into the row, Badenoch told the Politico audience that Forbes was entitled to her religious views.
"I support same sex marriage and like anyone I'm disappointed when anyone disagrees with me. But if you're asking me to condemn someone for their religious views you've failed to understand the basic responsibilities of being minister for equality," she said.
"I actually admire her for not being dishonest. It'd be very easy for her to tell lies, just so that she could win that election, and she's not doing that, and I think that that's something that people need to take into account."
She added, "I'm not religious at all but I understand it. I grew up in a very religious country so I understand what it means to people and how they live their lives. So to stop people from saying what they really feel is overly draconian."
Badenoch criticised people for withdrawing their support from Forbes over the issue.
"I do think that those people who are withdrawing support from her, I'd ask, 'Why did you support her in the first place?'
"Because I don't think what she's saying is new, and I think it shows a level of unseriousness of many people who engage in political activity and commentary, where they don't take things seriously in terms of 'why am I supporting this person'?" she said.