Analysis: Decision shows law, politics align on gay marring issue

Elaine Cleary rejoices after learning of the decision outside the Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON—Gay marriage is now a seamless part of the American fabric.

The Supreme Court ruling Friday was a final affirmation that public sentiment has not only shifted dramatically, but the Rainbow Revolution is permanent and will not be reversed.

Opponents will keep fighting, and vow now to take the issue to the states.



But the Supreme Court’s ruling caps an extraordinary four or so years when gay rights and gay marriage became widely accepted, thanks partly to popular culture portraying gays as “people next door,” and partly to a growing intolerance for intolerance driven by a new generation of Americans who easily embrace gay rights.

“People who support more traditional marriages realize they’re outnumbered,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst. “The march of history is against them.”

It was telling Friday that most political opposition was muted. Virtually no Republican leader was demanding quick action to overturn the decision.

Democrats were more wholeheartedly supportive, another sign of how much the nation has shifted. Just a few years ago, President Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and other leading party officials were opposed.

The issue won’t entirely disappear. There was some talk of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. But that’s a political impossibility.

Another 2016 GOP presidential contender, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, compared the battle ahead to the fight to restrict abortion that’s raged since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 legalized abortion in most cases.

“We’ll treat it the same way [as Roe v. Wade], which is respect the law and do our best to try to overturn it,” Santorum said.

Nationally, views on abortion often deal with life and death as well as strong religious convictions. Gay marriage, which also involves religious beliefs, raises questions of discrimination, and the nation has shown for years that it wants to move away from intolerance.

Public attitudes have shifted dramatically in favor of such unions. A solid majority now think same-sex marriages should be legal.

Fighting same sex marriage state by state is likely to be even tougher. Getting traditional marriage laws enacted would be a lengthy, often difficult task, and unlikely to succeed in Northeastern and West Coast states.

“The lift would be heavier and a longer haul,” said Gregory Angelo of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican group.

Many Republicans would rather move on. There’s concern that being too adamant against gay marriage reinforces the view of many party regulars that the party is intolerant.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued a carefully worded statement Friday touching on both the states’ rights and religious freedom issue, without expressing outright opposition to same-sex unions.

The passion among opponents will live on, but not the political will. “It’s not that individuals have changed,” said Rothenberg, “but they understand they’ve lost the fight.”

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