The Rev. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, makes his intentions about gay marriage known at the Southern Baptist Convention during an address earlier this month at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.


“This landmark decision had deep biblical, historical and constitutional roots, and unfortunately, our justices chose to redefine marriage for the entire nation, ignoring other constitutional rights and opening the door to a dangerous infringement on religious liberties.”

Dale Walker, president, Tennessee Pastors Network

“Now, the battlefield shifts to religious freedom. Will the progressive, totalitarian and intolerant left weaponize the government and attempt to force or compel people to affirm same-sex behavior and relationships? Or will they respect the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution? These will continue to be questions for the coming generations, now that the high Court has seized the historic role of defining marriage from the individual states and stripped it away from voters.”

Dr. Richard Land, president, Southern Evangelical Seminary

“Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges opinion changes the truth about marriage. What has changed is the legal definition of marriage, which is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth.”

Leith Anderson, president, National Association of Evangelicals

For millennia, marriage has meant a covenant between one man and one woman.

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court found it meant something else.

In doing so, it negated the votes of more than 41 million people in 31 states, overturned a Supreme Court decision from 1972 that denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples and set up what is likely to be a years-long fight over religious liberties.

The decision also rocked many people of faith, who believe strongly in a God-ordained definition of marriage and in the biblical prohibitions of any other type of union.

It may take years to determine the full effects of such a societal change.

However, while maintaining marriage is what it always has been and cannot be changed by one Supreme Court decision, people of faith can play a role as the full legalization of same-sex marriage rolls out. Instead of shunning individuals or couples whose unions will be sanctioned by law, they can celebrate the love the individuals have for one another and treat them with dignity and respect.

Jesus Christ, after all, meant no less when he said beyond the greatest commandment of loving your God with all your heart, soul and mind, the second commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself.

Rather than finding a basis for same-sex marriage in the rule of law, Friday's decision essentially codified a culture shift less than a decade in the making.

In 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage 57-35 percent; today, one poll indicates it is favored by 57 percent to 39 percent. In 2008, presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton opposed same-sex marriage; today, both are adamant supporters.

As recently as 2011, voters in no state had approved same-sex marriage; in the end, only three — Maine, Maryland and Washington State — did. Meanwhile, eight state legislatures gave nods to such action, and courts determined it could be lawful in 26 other states.

The Supreme Court made yesterday's deeply divided, 5-4 decision all but a foregone conclusion in 2013 when it ruled ruled that a federal law — the 1996 Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman — was unconstitutional.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in writing for the majority, touched on what he believed were supportive portions of the 14th amendment, but he saved the majority of his argument for what he suggested was "the importance of marriage" and all it has offered "since the dawn of history."

However, he sought cover in saying "the history of marriage is one of both continuity and change" and went on to describe arranged marriages, interracial marriages, marriage being a "male-dominated legal entity" and other developments, but in each he was talking about traditional marriage. And no matter what traditional marriage and same-sex marriage might share, they're really far different.

Dissenters had a field day both with the argument that marriage always has been regulated by the individual states and the fact the decision seemed to be based only on the majority whims of a nine-member court. Most ironic was the dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts, who used the same argument against the majority as he did in writing the majority decision that was released Thursday on Obamacare.

"Five lawyers closed the debate," he wrote, "and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law."

The question for the great majority in the country, who have felt blindsided by the cultural shift from all they had been taught, is what happens now.

Many hope same-sex marriage will follow the path of abortion, which has seen its numbers fall for most of the last 25 years. Once individuals see potential downsides, the hope goes, the numbers will decline.

Others believe it will have a chilling negative effect on family and faith, with proponents of traditional marriage who rely on their religious faith becoming known as extremists, writers and broadcasters being threatened over words they once thought would be covered by the First Amendment, and churches whose beliefs do not allow same-sex marriages being sued.

Of the more than 321 million people in the United States, the gay-marriage decision directly will affect some 1 million same-sex couples, married and unmarried, according to UCLA's Williams Institute, which tracks the demographics of gay and lesbian Americans. Of those, an estimated 390,000 are already married. Another 70,000 couples living in states that did not permit them to wed would get married in the next three years, the institute says.

But, make no mistake, Friday's decision will have ramifications for far more than the .62 percent of the population those couples comprise.


The dissent: what the judges wrote

"Although the policy arguments for extending marriage to same-sex couples may be compelling, the legal arguments for requiring such an extension are not. The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage. And a State's decision to maintain the meaning of marriage that has persisted in every culture throughout human history can hardly be called irrational. In short, our Constitution does not enact any one theory of marriage. The people of a State are free to expand marriage to include same-sex couples, or to retain the historic definition."

"Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer."

"If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."

— Chief Justice John Roberts

"So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today's decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact — and the furthest extension one can even imagine — of the Court's claimed power to create "liberties" that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves."

"This is a naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, superlegislative — power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy."

"The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today's opinion has to diminish this Court's reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis."

"The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie."

— Justice Antonin Scalia

"Had the majority allowed the definition of marriage to be left to the political process — as the Constitution requires — the People could have considered the religious liberty implications of deviating from the traditional definition as part of their deliberative process. Instead, the majority's decision short-circuits that process, with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty."

— Justice Clarence Thomas

"The decision will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools."

— Justice Samuel Alito