This paper investigates what affects the views of parliamentary candidates on gay rights, independent of public opinion. Because in most parliamentary systems parties select their candidates, we would expect political ideology to play a strong role in shaping their views. However, drawing on rarely used data on the views and background of thousands of individual parliamentary candidates from countries across Europe and their policy preferences on the issue of same-sex marriage, our results show that political ideology and partisanship do not tell the whole story. Empirically, we demonstrate that parliamentary candidates’ positions on same-sex marriage are determined more by their religious beliefs and other socio-demographic characteristics than by political ideology, even within parties traditional supportive of progressive social values. This study contributes to better understanding how LGBTQ policy change happens in Europe by examining the preferences of the people mainly responsible for it.