It was a decision most court watchers were expecting, and today it was handed down. The Supreme Court ruled that state bans on gay marriage are invalid under the constitution and expanded the “right to marry” to all fifty states.
Report from the Associated Press:
The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.
Gay and lesbian couples already could marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court’s 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court’s previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996. It came on the anniversary of two of those earlier decisions.
“No union is more profound than marriage,” Kennedy wrote, joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.
The stories of the people asking for the right to marry “reveal that they seek not to denigrate marriage but rather to live their lives, or honor their spouses’ memory, joined by its bond,” Kennedy said.
The four dissenting justices each filed a separate opinion explaining their views, but they agreed that states and their voters should have been left with the power to decide who can marry.
This decision will have major reverberations in the 2016 campaign field and I expect all candidates to issue lengthy statements on the matter.
Politico has a good collection of candidate reactions available here. As noted in the piece, Democrats are uniform in their praise for the decision. Republicans were uniform in their opposition, but to varying degrees:
There were divisions, though, in the reactions from the Republican candidates. All the GOP hopefuls noted their personal objection to same-sex marriage and their belief that marriage should be left to the states. But while some firebrands — led by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — issued strong statements urging conservatives to fight, others, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, issued more muted statements.
The different reactions underscore the tough challenge facing Republican candidates in a deep field; namely, how to appeal to a conservative base that strongly opposes same-sex marriage without alienating a general-election audience that largely supports it.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had warned that the legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to the “criminalization of Christianity,” issued perhaps the sharpest repudiation of the Supreme Court, warning Friday that the country “must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat,” in a statement on his website.
The ruling is about “marriage redefinition,” he wrote, adding that the “only outcome worse than this flawed, failed decision would be for the President and Congress, two co-equal branches of government, to surrender in the face of this out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the decision “will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision.”
The ruling will certainly ignite some voters, and could create a voter enthusiasm gap if conservatives are motivated to come out heavily in 2016. The ruling today is part of a one-two punch, along with yesterday’s ObamaCare ruling, which will certainly help drive and shape the debate into 2016.