For now, the justices are not willing to do so. That is not to say that, in a few years, as additional tests are brought before these justices or a court with a different composition, there will be no change. But as some proponents of same-sex marriage noted Wednesday, the struggle of rights rarely happens in a single judicial thunderclap.
Obama, en route to Africa, hailed the court’s ruling on DOMA in a tweet.
Republican leaders voiced their disappointment with varying volume and vowed to keep fighting to preserve traditional marriage.
Congressional Republicans had risen to defend DOMA before the court when the Obama administration said it would no longer do so, and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) voiced his disappointment with the court’s decision.
“A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square,” he said, “and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”
Other social conservative leaders decried the ruling in more vehement terms. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a 2008 presidential candidate, said, “Jesus wept.” Others denounced the decision as a “stunning and indefensible display of judicial activism,” as Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said in a statement.
The Republicans can look ahead to growing divisions within their ranks over this and other cultural issues. Those tensions are likely to intensify if public opinion continues to move in the direction of support for same-sex marriage and prospects for winning national elections diminish.
Democrats are united on the issue. It is likely that anyone who seeks the party’s 2016 presidential nomination will favor same-sex marriage. Whether anyone in the GOP field will back legalizing such unions remains to be seen. But history is moving against Republicans on this, and a high court led by Chief Justice John Roberts — a court that conservatives have looked to for support — did little Wednesday to offer aid or comfort.
For previous columns by Dan Balz,go to postpolitics.com.