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, and virtually no major political leader was demanding quick action to overturn the decision.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who last fall helped raise money for an openly gay candidate, expressed disappointment in the ruling but stopped short of calling for legislative relief.
“We should respect the sincerely held religious views of our fellow citizens, just as we respect those on the winning side of this case,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has been concerned that Republicans have an image of intolerance.
Republicans running for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination were also subdued in their responses.
“Let us continue to show tolerance for those whose opinions and sincerely held beliefs differ from our own,” said former business executive Carly Fiorina.
“While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush reiterated his support for traditional marriage. But he added, “I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side.”
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. Friday, Obama quickly tweeted how pleased he was with the ruling.
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, executive director 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.
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.
This desire for religious freedom is now the conservatives’ rallying cry. If someone wants to oppose same-sex marriage because it’s part of their religious belief, the thinking goes, the government should not tell them otherwise. But even under that banner, trends appear to be going against them.
Indiana lawmakers tried in March to protect businesses that wanted to deny service to those whose beliefs they didn’t share, but pressure from businesses and others forced a quick softening of the law. An attempt to enact a religious freedom law in Arkansas had a similar fate.
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.”