Congressional Democrats cheered the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a federal law that banned gay marriage, while Republicans who rallied behind the Defense of Marriage Act indicated that the fight over same-sex marriage would continue, but at the state level.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who led a House effort to legally defend DOMA after the Obama administration refused to do so, said he was disappointed in the court's ruling against DOMA and in a second gay marriage case from California, which together represented a major victory for gay rights.
"While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances,” Boehner said in a statement. “A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a former GOP presidential contender, echoed the sentiments of many conservatives and evangelicals in a statement in which she declared, “No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”
"For thousands of years of recorded human history,” Bachmann said, “no society has defended the legal standard of marriage as anything other than between man and woman.”
A growing number of Republicans have changed their views and publicly announced support for gay marriage. And others indicated that while they were disappointed with the court ruling, they were already moving on to other issues.
"One thing at a time,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. “Right now I’m trying to keep the president from completely destroying the economy. I pick fights that I can win.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., one of just 16 senators who voted against DOMA in 1996, said states that don't allow gay marriage will now have to asks themselves, “Do we still want to continue to discriminate.”
"The fact is, the courts said unequivocally that the federal government cannot discriminate against married couples, and it's a huge day for civil rights," Boxer said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was in the middle of a press conference on health care Wednesday when an aide passed her a note saying the court had struck down DOMA, which prevented same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, looking over at the note, mouthed the word "wow,” while other Democrats in the room were visibly pleased as the note circulated.
"It was very encouraging,” Pelosi said. “I was thinking when we were walking over here, I said to them 'I'll be devastated if [DOMA is upheld],' for two reasons, for what it means in the lives of people, first and foremost, but secondly, it's clearly unconstitutional. So I'm glad to hear that the court agrees."
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay member of the upper chamber, said the court's decision to strike down DOMA and to reject a second gay-marriage case from California “reaffirmed our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law.”
“While this is a huge step forward for our country, the fight to make America more equal does not end with a Supreme Court decision,” Baldwin said in a statement. “There is more work to be done to fulfill the promise of freedom and equality for all — in which America becomes a place where every family’s love and commitment can be recognized and respected under the law.”