CINCINNATI — With the mayor of Dayton declaring “you are now husband and husband,” the wait for Ohio to allow same-sex marriage ended for a gay couple in the city just as it is ending for couples across the last states with bans on such unions — even if the opposition isn’t over.
Some couples rushed to marriage license bureaus and even wed Friday within hours of the Supreme Court ruling that said gay couples can marry anywhere in the country including in the 14 remaining states with bans. Steadfast activists who say traditional marriage is defined as a man and a woman vowed to defend rights of religious objectors and to try to battle back politically.
There were also scattered holdouts, with some officials in those states contending they needed more time and legal direction before complying with the 5-4 ruling.
“Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected,” Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said. “No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.”
His office later clarified a directive to state agencies telling them to preserve religious liberties, saying the order didn’t allow them to discriminate against employees in same-sex couples. Same-sex couples got marriage licenses Friday in Dallas, Austin and the state’s other big cities, but many counties were holding off after the Texas attorney general urged them not to rush. A couple counties claimed technical glitches prevented them from processing licenses for gay couples.
Governors in Louisiana and Mississippi also railed against the ruling.
“This has always been about our religious freedoms and the persecution of those who believe same-sex unions are wrong,” said Phil Burress, longtime leader of the Citizens for Community Values in suburban Cincinnati. “Now the persecutions will begin.”
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Cincinnati said the high court disregarded the will of voters in Ohio and other states, besides disregarding an understanding of marriage shared by virtually all cultures until recently.
“Every nation has laws limiting who and under what circumstances people can be married,” Archbishop Dennis Schnurr said in a statement.
Religious organizations are exempt from the ruling, and churches including Southern Baptists, Mormons and others that oppose same-sex marriages can still make their own decisions about whether clergy will conduct gay marriages in their places of worship.
The high court gave the losing side some three weeks to ask for reconsideration. The 14 states that had banned gay marriage are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Meanwhile, in Kansas, where some counties have continued to refuse to comply with federal rulings that gay couples could marry, the attorney general and Gov. Sam Brownback said they would study the Supreme Court ruling further before making any moves in a lawsuit over the state’s voter-passed ban. An ACLU official said the state leaders should “admit defeat.”
Officials at the county courthouse in Toledo, Ohio, called in another minister to perform same-sex marriages Friday because the rotating minister on duty wouldn’t marry gay couples, said the Rev. Sandra Frost, who married the first couple around noon.
Some county clerks in other states refused gay couples, citing a three-week grace period allowed by the Supreme Court or forms now out of date that specify “bride” and “groom.”
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond (Virginia) law professor, said political opponents of same-sex marriage will likely push legislation to expand religious freedom and to aim at protecting those who don’t want to participate in actions that facilitate same-sex marriage.
Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert said lawmakers should push for a U.S. constitutional amendment on marriage under a provision that would trigger a constitutional convention if 34 states apply for it. The Republican said the Supreme Court “has brought us to the brink of real crisis in our country” by ruling against the will of the people.
Burress pledged to go after politicians who have supported same-sex marriage, predicting outrage over the decision will bring out a wave of new voters.
Among those who have drawn his ire is Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, who switched his position to support same-sex marriage after his son Will came out to him and his wife Jane as gay.
Portman, who is seeking re-election in 2016, said Friday he welcomed the ruling “as a father,” although he would have preferred that the issue be resolved by the democratic process because that builds a lasting consensus. He said he hopes the ruling means “we can move past the division and polarization the issue has caused.”
Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty, a couple who sued Tennessee to gain recognition for their out-of-state marriage, were jubilant.
“I just feel free, like a burden or a weight has been lifted,” Jesty said.
The couple were married in New York before moving to Tennessee for work.
Jesty and Tanco said they are especially happy that their 15-month-old daughter won’t have to grow up feeling that her parents are different from anyone else’s.
“Her family is legally recognized, and both moms are on the birth certificate, so no one can take that away from her, or from her family,” Tanco said.