WASHINGTON - Millions of Americans are celebrating Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states across the country. But others are shocked and angry, including Republican presidential candidates, prominent Republican lawmakers, social conservatives and some religious groups.
President Barack Obama called the decision a victory for America, but he also acknowledged that some Americans are not celebrating: “I know that Americans of goodwill continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact, recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.”
Reaction came quickly from social conservatives, including Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who called the ruling a shocking abuse of power by the Supreme Court.
“Marriage is rooted not only in human history, but also in the biological and social reality that children are created by, and do best when raised by, a mother and a father," Perkins said. "No court ruling can alter this truth. It is folly for the court to think that it has resolved a controversial issue of public policy. By disenfranchising 50 million Americans, the court has instead supercharged this issue.”
Republican House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement saying he was “disappointed that the Supreme Court disregarded the democratically elected will of millions of Americans by forcing states to redefine the institution of marriage.”
The Supreme Court ruling invalidates bans on gay marriage that had been enacted in several states. Some of those bans had already been overturned by lower-court rulings.
One of the most defiant responses came from Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who noted that the Supreme Court was split 5-4.
“The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the supreme being can do: redefine marriage," Huckabee said. "I will not acquiesce to an imperial court, any more than our founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said he thought the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. But he said he also believed that “we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments.”
Walker wants amendment
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said the ruling was a grave mistake and called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to strip the courts of their authority on the marriage equality issue.
But Republican presidential candidate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio said: “While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law.”
Reaction also came from some Christian churches that oppose gay marriage.
Chad Pecknold, an associate professor at Catholic University of America, told VOA the ruling was particularly difficult for the Catholic Church, "because what it does is inscribe in the fundamental Western law a view of marriage that the Catholic Church does not hold as valid. This is a challenge to the church's view of the nature of a person and the nature of marriage, but it is also a legal, or potential legal, challenge to the church’s institutions, and this is what the church is going to be particularly watchful of.”
Pecknold said the ruling could force churches to spend their time and money defending themselves from lawsuits that challenge their core beliefs, instead of preaching the Gospel.
But Georgetown University professor Nan Hunter told VOA those fears were unfounded.
“Of course, no member of the clergy ever has to perform a same-sex marriage, if he or she does not believe in that or wish to do so," Hunter said. "Just like today sometimes, members of the clergy do not perform interfaith marriages if they object to that.”
Sam Rubenstein, a gay-rights supporter who was outside of court to hear the ruling Friday, was asked what he would say to Americans concerned about religious liberty, and he told VOA that the government must treat all of its citizens equally.
“When government creates an institution, a program, it has to serve every citizen in the same way," he said. "You can believe and practice in home and church however you may, but a government program sanctioned by the state is a different thing.”
After Friday's ruling was issued, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood issued an initial statement saying that it "is not effective immediately in Mississippi.” But he soon clarified that position, saying: “The Supreme Court decision is the law of the land and we do not dispute that.” He said circuit clerks would be required to issue same-sex marriage licenses once a lower court’s ruling was lifted.