Justice Anthony Kennedy, usually considered a swing vote, sided with the court’s more liberal justices to render the decision. Kennedy also wrote the majority opinion.
In his opinion, Kennedy said “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.”
Again calling out his colleagues in his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by consitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ ‘reasoned judgment.’ A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
From Governor Robert Bentley (R-AL): “I have always believed in the Biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. That definition has been deeply rooted in our society for thousands of years. Regardless of today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, I still believe in a one man and one woman definition of marriage. The people of Alabama also voted to define marriage as between a man and woman. I always respect the people’s vote, and I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has disregarded the choice made by the people of Alabama in its decision today.”
From Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL): “My long-standing position remains that marriage was created as a sacred union between one man and one woman. While I respect the rule of law, I disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling and believe that this decision should have been allowed to be made by the states.”
From Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL): “Five judges have neither the moral nor legal authority to decide for themselves that the heritage which gave birth to our nation should be supplanted with their own… The civilization we flourish in today did not spring out of nothing: it was carved out of the wilderness by families and communities knitted together by their faith and traditions, and set upon a foundation stretching back thousands of years.
When a society begins to strike its shared faith and traditions from every place of respect, a new faith always takes its place. Where the family is not the center of American life, government is. Today’s ruling is part of a continuing effort to secularize, by force and intimidation, a society that would not exist but for the faith which inspired people to sail across unknown waters and trek across unknown frontiers.”
From Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1): “I have always believed that marriage should be defined as the union between one man and one woman. I believe today’s decision threatens what should be exclusive state jurisdiction over matters pertaining to marriage.”
From the Alabama Policy Institute: “Foundational to the Alabama Policy Institute’s mission is the adherence to an originalist understanding of the Constitution, zeal for the “numerous and indefinite” powers reserved to the states, and lastly, a biblical view of matters affecting the family. Today’s ruling trounces on a strict interpretation of the Constitution by creating an entirely new right and by inexplicably taking the matter out of the hands of the people of each state.
This ruling will have far-reaching consequences, particularly for those who maintain sincere religious beliefs on marriage. We call on our state’s delegation in Congress, the Governor of Alabama, and the Alabama Legislature to take proactive steps to ensure that no Alabamian will be forced to relinquish the freedom to live in accordance with their religious convictions on this matter.”
ALGOP Chairman Terry Lathan: “With the decision of the United States Supreme Court today to remove state barriers for the implementation of same-sex marriage in America, Alabama’s 2006 Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, which was approved by a landslide 81% of the vote of our people, was ignored and buried. Our country is a republic and our state’s rights should be upheld, but Alabama was told today by five judges in Washington, DC that our voices are mute and the 697,591 Alabamians that voted and made our state’s decision to deny marriage licenses to members of the same sex is null and void.
“Our boundaries have been breached once again by the overreaching hand of the federal judicial system. The majority of the people in Alabama lost their voice today. Alabamians are kind and loving people and our reputation for our hospitality and care for others is known across the land, however we also guard our rights to make our own decisions. Today Alabama’s vast majority on this topic was silenced.”
From Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange: “While I do not agree with the opinion of the majority of the justices in their decision, I acknowledge that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling is now the law of the land. Short of the passage of a Constitutional Amendment protecting marriage as between one man and one woman, the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say.
“But while the states are now required to recognize same-sex marriage, I expect the focus will now turn to the exercise of one’s religious liberty. I will continue to defend the religious liberties of Alabamians and ensure that people and businesses honoring their religious beliefs are protected.”
From Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7): “There are moments in American history when the trajectory of our nation shifts. Today, the Supreme Court’s ruling affirmed the basic principle that our Constitution affords all Americans the equal protections under the law, while also acknowledging our First Amendment right to maintain our own religious beliefs. Marriage licenses are an instrument of the state, and every person should have the right to marry. This decision upholds the equal dignity of all Americans to enter and have the same rights afforded by the union of marriage.”
From Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL4): “The Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage today is greatly disappointing, and I share a heavy-heart with many of my fellow Americans. I believe with this decision the court has crowned itself the arbiter of social and cultural change, rather than just simply interpreting the law.
“One of my chief concerns with this decision is the impact it could have on religious freedoms in our country. Will this decision be used by the Federal Government to force churches, religious organizations and religious educational institutions to violate their core convictions?
“I believe this ruling will eventually force a showdown between citizens who support the First Amendment and those who don’t. The First Amendment says the Federal Government will not deny the free exercise of religion. However, I fear this ruling will lead to exactly that situation.
“I will be working with my conservative colleagues in Congress to ensure that the Federal Government does not use this ruling to further endanger our religious liberties.”
From Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL6): “I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in this case and believe it represents the height of Judicial activism. Two years ago, in U.S. v Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional because they claimed that it interfered with the right of states to define marriage as each state saw fit. Now that same Court has summarily invalidated the right of every state, such as Alabama, that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
“Nonetheless, it is important to remember that in a larger sense, neither the Supreme Court nor any government entity can redefine marriage, because the definition of marriage pre-exists government. No one can change the fundamental nature of what marriage is: the union of a man and woman and the formation of family which is the foundation of every civilization. The Court’s ruling cannot change that. Because of this ruling I have grave concerns about the assault against the religious liberties of the millions of Americans for whom marriage is a religious institution and will always remain one. Congress should act to ensure that the religious liberties of all Americans are protected so that no one is ever be forced or coerced into violating their conscience.”
This story will be updated with reactions from Alabamians as they come in.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015