By Frank Lewis
The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States. Gay and lesbian couples already could marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court’s 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
Local reaction to the decision Friday has been mixed.
“All I can say is wow,” Portsmouth First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson said. “When Paul (Johnson) and I first got together over 37 years ago I never imagined that this day would come.”
Paul Johnson died in 2009.
“We married in Key West back in (19)86 I believe it was,” Johnson said. “That was for ourselves. That was a commitment. But I never imagined that the day would come when the Supreme Court would recognize future marriages. I’m astounded and I’m delighted.”
The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court’s previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996. It came on the anniversary of two of those earlier decisions.
“No union is more profound than marriage,” Kennedy wrote, joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.
The four dissenting justices each filed a separate opinion explaining their views.
“But this court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in dissent. Roberts read a summary of his dissent from the bench, the first time he has done so in nearly 10 years as chief justice.
Justice Antonin Scalia said he is not concerned so much about same-sex marriage, but about “this court’s threat to American democracy.” Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas also dissented.
“Personally, morally, I’m against the ruling,” Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis said. “I stand for what God’s word says. I see where some people are interpreting God’s word different ways but God’s word is very clear on God’s position in what he says in his word that marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s my opinion and people should respect that position just as the people on the other side believe that their opinion should be respected.”
Davis said he also opposes the decision for another reason.
“The 10th Amendment to the Constitution defines state’s rights as having precedence,” Davis said. “In this particular case state’s rights have been ignored. Ohio, in particular, had already voted in regards to this issue and may I remind everybody even California had voted in regards to this issue and 50-million Americans have just had their votes overruled by five activist judges who are now saying 50-million Americans don’t know what they’re talking about and that their vote doesn’t count.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) issued a statement on the decision.
“Today the Supreme Court has finally put our nation on the right side of history. Marriage equality is now the law of the land across our country, including in Ohio, and states should immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, who have waited too long already,” Brown said. “This decision comes in no small part because of the courage of Ohioan Jim Obergefell, and all those who have fought for marriage equality. Anyone who has heard Jim tell his story can’t fail to be moved. It’s long past time that our laws recognized his marriage and all other same-sex marriages.”
U.S. Representative Bill Johnson (R-OH) disagreed with the decision.
“I am deeply disappointed with the outcome of today’s Supreme Court ruling, as I believe that Ohioans have the right to decide what’s best for Ohio – and Ohioans have already spoken on this issue.” Johnson said. “I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that won’t change because of today’s ruling. And, it is my hope that supporters of today’s decision will respect the religious liberty of the millions of Americans who believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage.”
The ruling will not take effect immediately because the court gives the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for reconsideration. But some state officials and county clerks might decide there is little risk in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis. The Associated Press contributed to this story.