Metro Weekly

Conservative reaction to the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling

Illustration by Scott G. Brooks
Illustration by Scott G. Brooks

As LGBT advocates, allies and everyday gay folks are celebrating the Supreme Court’s historic marriage ruling — which affirmed the legality of same-sex marriage in all 50 states — conservative reaction is typically appalled.

In a landmark 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court rejected the right of states to ban same-sex marriage, deeming it unconstitutional. All four conservative justices wrote dissenting opinions, with Chief Justice John Roberts opting to read his dissent from the bench — an unprecedented move from the Bush-appointed justice.

“Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens – through the democratic process – to adopt their view. That ends today,” Roberts wrote. “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.

“Understand well what this dissent is about: it is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples,” he continued. “It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.

“This Court is not a legislature,” Roberts added. “Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

Justice Antonin Scalia, a known opponent of same-sex marriage, echoed Roberts’ decision.

“The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me,” he wrote in his dissent. “The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance. Those civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage.”

“It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me,” he continued. “Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.”

Scalia slammed the majority opinion as ” lacking even a thin veneer of law,” and blasted “the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages.” He added that “The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in
2003.” He concluded that the decision was so damaging to the court’s reputation that it reduced the value of its rulings to “the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

Reaction from conservative pundits and politicians has toed familiar lines.

Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination took to Twitter to express their disdain at the ruling.

Jeb Bush issued a statement reaffirming his support for traditional marriage, but issued the same plea for tolerance that he did when same-sex marriage was legalized in Florida.

“Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision,” he wrote on his website. “I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”

Carly Fiorina has issued a statement decrying the Supreme Court for overstepping its boundaries.

“This is only the latest example of an activist Court ignoring its constitutional duty to say what the law is and not what the law should be…. All Americans, whatever their thinking on that issue, should worry about what the majority’s claim of power portends,” she said. “The Court ruled today that all Americans should receive equal benefits and rights from the government under the law. I have always supported this view. However, this decision was also about the definition of marriage itself. I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage. I believe that responsibility should have remained with states and voters where this conversation has continued in churches, town halls and living rooms around the country.”

Lindsay Graham has stated that he will respect the court’s decision and will now put his efforts to fighting for “religious liberties.”

“I am a proud defender of traditional marriage and believe the people of each state should have the right to determine their marriage laws,” he said. “However, the Supreme Court has ruled that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, and I will respect the Court’s decision. Rather than pursing a divisive effort that would be doomed to fail, I am committing myself to ensuring the protection of religious liberties of all Americans. No person of faith should ever be forced by the federal government to take action that goes against his or her conscience or the tenets of their religion.”

“I am disappointed the Supreme Court today chose to change the centuries old definition of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Perry continued in a statement. “I’m a firm believer in traditional marriage, and I also believe the 10th Amendment leaves it to each state to decide this issue. I fundamentally disagree with the court rewriting the law and assaulting the 10th Amendment.”

“While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law,” said Marco Rubio, the youngest contender for the Republican nomination. He similarly called for tolerance on the issue from both sides, while emphasizing his support for religious freedom.

“As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood. The next president and all in public office must strive to protect the First Amendment rights of religious institutions and millions of Americans whose faiths hold a traditional view of marriage,” he continued. “I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”

Bryan Fischer, a notoriously anti-gay radio host, tweeted that today he “saw Satan dancing with delight.”

This post will be updated throughout the day.

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