In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court Friday declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. The decision culminates four decades of litigation over gay marriage and gay rights in general.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama said the Supreme Court's ruling represents a day when justice "arrives like a thunderbolt," and has "made our union a little more perfect."
“Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle, that we are all created equal,” said Obama. “The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words, with the realities of changing times.”
Gay and lesbian couples already could marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia, including Florida as of last January. The court's ruling means the remaining 14 states, including Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
“I’m glad to see that our government is beginning to fall in line with the views of the majority of the people in favor of full marriage equality,” said Doug Landreth, president of Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida.
The court ruling will end the patchwork of laws on marriage across the country and the uncertainty that they create for same-sex couples. Landreth says the ruling also means same-sex marriages from one state will be recognized in the other 49.
“It’s a very, very disappointing decision,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes, who leads the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese. “It was not what I was hoping for, that we as a Church were hoping for, with regard to this issue.”
Parkes joins other Roman Catholic bishops across the country in voicing distress over the affirmation of gay marriage. They’re also asking Catholics to pray, live and speak out about what they call the "true nature of marriage."
“I think Catholics need to understand that this decision in no way affects our understanding of what marriage is, as between one man and one woman,” Parkes said. “Just because something is law doesn’t mean that we have adhere to it, if it violates our conscience, or our religious beliefs or teachings.”
In a joint statement, the bishops say redefining marriage does not advance anyone's rights, especially children's. Parks says the Church does acknowledge that there are certain individuals who have same-sex attractions, and that gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to attend mass and receive communion.
“However, we would say that, thought someone may have a same-sex attraction, they are called to live a chaste life,” said Parkes. “To that extent, they would need to examine their conscience, to see whether they’re prepared to receive communion or not.”
Florida’s two U.S. Senators are split on SCOTUS. Democrat Bill Nelson, in a brief statement, said the ruling reaffirms that we're all created equal and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Republican Marco Rubio, who’s running for president, says the ruling “short-circuits the political process.”
Gay Grassroots’ Doug Landreth says while this is a landmark victory, work still remains in other areas to achieve full equality for the LGBT community, beginning with job discrimination and the bullying of students.
Approval of gay marriage has been climbing in the past few years. A Gallup poll in 2009 showed 40% in favor; the latest survey last month shows 60% approval. Landreth was asked what’s changing hearts and minds on this issue.
“I think as more and more individual states started allowing marriage equality, people were able to see first-hand that this was not the end of civilization,” Landreth said. “The more they understand is the more they realize that we are just like everyone else.”