The Supreme Court of the United States ruled on Friday that same-sex couples can marry everywhere. Across the country, gay couples headed to city halls and county courthouses, to gain the legal rights and recognition long denied to them. But not in Pike County, Alabama. Probate Judge Wes Allen discontinued issuing licenses in February rather than sanction gay unions, his office told The New York Times, and it has no plans to issue any more to the country’s 33,000 residents, gay or straight.
Same-sex marriage already existed in most of the United States before today’s decision, either by legislative act, democratic vote, or judicial ruling. Resistance in the remaining jurisdictions is sporadic, like in Pike County. But many states seem to be abandoning the fight altogether. Kentucky, North Dakota, and South Dakota began issuing licenses statewide shortly after the ruling. “I acknowledge that the Supreme Court’s ruling is now the law of the land,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is waiting for a federal appeals court to lift an earlier stay before marriage can proceed there. Some Texas counties began issuing licenses almost immediately after the decision was announced, while others said they would need to update their forms first.
Among Democrats, whose party shifted from caution to enthusiastic support for LGBT rights over the past five years, responses to the decision were jubilant. Democratic presidential candidates joined in the celebration. “Proud,” said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a one-word tweet, with a picture attached that said “history” in rainbow letters. “For far too long our justice system has marginalized the gay community,” said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, “and I am very glad the Court has finally caught up to the American people.” Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley praised both the Court’s decision and his state for “leading the way” on the issue.
Among the wide multitude of Republican presidential candidates, reactions ranged from resigned acceptance to undisguised anger. “While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio in a statement. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also struck a conciliatory tone. “In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side,” he said in a statement. At the same time, Bush noted, “it is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”
The religious-liberty theme echoed throughout the entire range of GOP responses. Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon who supports same-sex civil unions, urged Congress “to make sure deeply held religious views are respected and protected.”
But among some Republican presidential candidates, the mood was far more hostile. “I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch,” said former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in a statement. “We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal complained that the decision “tramples on states’ rights.” Calling the Supreme Court “completely out of control,” Jindal added: “If we want to save some money lets just get rid of the court.”
Other candidates pledged to carry on their fight against rising support for marriage equality among Americans. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker criticized “five unelected judges” for redefining marriage and called for a constitutional amendment to override the Court’s decision. Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, vowed to appoint “strict Constitutional conservatives” to the Supreme Court if elected president.
Perhaps the strongest official statement of support came from the White House, where President Obama spoke at length shortly after the ruling came down. “This ruling is a victory for America,” he said in a White House press conference. After supporting civil unions during his first election in 2008, Obama became the first sitting president to support marriage equality in May 2012. He said at the time that his views on the issue had “evolved.” Today, the president was more succinct: “Love is love.”