While Democratic candidates all hailed the decision as another marker for equality, the Republican response was more varied, with some expressing their objection more forcefully than others.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton tweeted that she was “[p]roud to celebrate a historic victory for marriage equality—& the courage & determination of LGBT Americans who made it possible. -H.” Her account also tweeted out the word “HISTORY” in rainbow colors, incorporating her campaign logo.
“From Stonewall to today’s decision, the courage and determination of the LGBT community has changed hearts, minds, and laws. Generations of advocates and activists sacrificed so much for this victory,” Clinton said in an email to supporters.
Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s closest rival in the polls, tweeted, “Today the Supreme Court fulfilled the words engraved upon its building: ‘Equal justice under law.’”
Martin O’Malley, who as governor of Maryland oversaw the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state, shared gratitude to Marylanders for “leading the way on this important issue.”
Lincoln Chafee also tweeted his congratulations to the Supreme Court on “today’s good ruling for marriage equality!”
There were divisions, though, in the reactions from the Republican candidates. All the GOP hopefuls noted their personal objection to same-sex marriage and their belief that marriage should be left to the states. But while some firebrands — led by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — issued strong statements urging conservatives to fight, others, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, issued more muted statements.
The different reactions underscore the tough challenge facing Republican candidates in a deep field; namely, how to appeal to a conservative base that strongly opposes same-sex marriage without alienating a general-election audience that largely supports it.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had warned that the legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to the “criminalization of Christianity,” issued perhaps the sharpest repudiation of the Supreme Court, warning Friday that the country “must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat,” in a statement on his website.
The ruling is about “marriage redefinition,” he wrote, adding that the “only outcome worse than this flawed, failed decision would be for the President and Congress, two co-equal branches of government, to surrender in the face of this out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the decision “will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision.”
“This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty,” he added.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said “the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham disagreed with that, saying he would respect the court’s decision and that instead of pursuing “a divisive effort” to overturn the ruling with Congress “that would be doomed to fail,” he would commit himself to “ensuring the protection of religious liberties of all Americans.”
“While we have differences, it is time for us to move forward together respectfully and as one people,” he said in a statement.
Rick Santorum cited the Dred Scott decision as an indicator that the Supreme Court has not had a perfect track record.
“Today, five unelected justices decided to redefine the foundational unit that binds together our society without public debate or input. Now is the people’s opportunity respond because the future of the institution of marriage is too important to not have a public debate,” Santorum said in a statement.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that America’s founding fathers “did not intend for the judicial branch to legislate from the bench.”
As president, Perry said in a statement, he would “appoint strict Constitutional conservatives who will apply the law as written.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another likely candidate, expressed disappointment with the decision but said the state would move forward.
Ben Carson said that while he did not agree with the decision, it is “now the law of the land,” calling on Congress to protect religious beliefs.
“I call on Congress to make sure deeply held religious views are respected and protected. The government must never force Christians to violate their religious beliefs,” he said in a statement. “I support same sex civil unions but to me, and millions like me, marriage is a religious service not a government form.” ‘
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote, “While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.”
Jeb Bush likewise struck a moderate tone, saying that the Supreme Court should have left marriage up to the states, but that Americans 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. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate,” he wrote.
Chris Christie, who is expected to announce his 2016 bid next week, said that he agreed with Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissent that the people should make this decision, noting his support and endorsement of New Jersey’s same-sex marriage law.
“I don’t agree with the way it’s been done, but I take an oath, and the same way I’ve supported and enforced the law here in New Jersey since our Supreme Court made their 7-0 decision on same-sex marriage, and I’ve supported and endorsed that law. I would have to do the same across the country,” Christie told reporters. “But I want to be clear — I don’t agree with the way it was done, but it’s been done, and those of us who take an oath have a responsibility to abide by that oath.”
Carly Fiorina, too, said the decision should have been left up to the states, saying the ruling is “only the latest example of an activist Court.”
“I do not agree that the Court can or should redefine marriage. I believe that responsibility should have remained with states and voters where this conversation has continued in churches, town halls and living rooms around the country,” she said in a statement.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, called it another example of “the Bush appointed Supreme Court Justice John Roberts” letting “us down.” “Jeb pushed him hard! Remember!” he tweeted.
Daniel Strauss contributed reporting.