The Supreme Court's landmark rulings on same-sex marriage have energized activists and politicians on both sides of the debate. Efforts to impose bans, and to repeal them, have taken on new intensity, as have lawsuits by gays demanding the right to marry.
The court, in two 5-4 decisions Wednesday, opened the way for California to become the 13th state to legalize gay marriage, and it directed the federal government to recognize legally married same-sex couples. A federal appeals court on Friday lifted its freeze on same-sex marriages in California, saying the state is required to issue licenses to gay couples starting immediately.
Within hours of the appeals court's action Friday, the four plaintiffs who in 2009 sued to overturn the ban had exchanged vows during hastily arranged ceremonies that drew crowds of well-wishers as the news spread that the weddings were back on.
"I was at work," lead plaintiff Kristen Perry said, adding that she rushed home to Berkeley to change into a gray suit so she could marry her now-wife Sandra Stier at San Francisco City Hall.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris declared Perry and Stier "spouses for life" as hundreds of supporters looked on and cheered from the balconies ringing the couple's perch under City Hall's rotunda. The other couple in the Supreme Court case, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, was married at Los Angeles City Hall 90 minutes later wearing matching white rose boutonnières and with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presiding.
"Your bravery in the face of bigotry has made history," said Villaraigosa, who was pulled from his last day in office tour of the city to officiate the impromptu wedding.
But the rulings, while hailed by gay-rights activists, did not declare a nationwide right for gays to marry. Instead, they set the stage for state-by-state battles over one of America's most contentious social issues. Already, some of those battles are heating up.
In Pennsylvania, the only Northeast state that doesn't legally recognize same-sex couples, gay state Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat, says he will introduce a bill to allow same-sex marriages. The bill may flounder in the GOP-led Legislature, but the issue is likely to be volatile in next year's gubernatorial race, pitting GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, an opponent of gay marriage, against any of three Democrats who favor it.
In Arizona, gay-rights supporters have begun circulating petitions aimed at repealing the state's 2008 ban on same-sex marriage by way of a ballot measure next year. With California's ban quashed, Arizona is now among 29 states with constitutional amendments that limit marriage to one-man, one-woman unions.
Gay-rights activists and Democratic politicians in several other states also hope to repeal the bans in their states — in Oregon, Ohio and Arkansas with possible ballot measures next year, and in Nevada and Michigan with referendums in 2016.
Ohio activist Ian James of FreedomOhio said his group's resolve to collect signatures "has been doubled" as a result of the Supreme Court decisions. And Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat who favors repealing his state's ban, said the court action "underscores the urgency of extending the freedom to marry to all our citizens."
"Oregon has not yet lived up to the ideal of equal rights for all," Kitzhaber said.
In Indiana and West Virginia, some Republican politicians want to move in the other direction, joining the ranks of states with constitutional bans. Both states have laws that bar gays from marrying, but constitutional amendments are viewed as more durable measures that resist being overturned by litigation.
The leaders of Indiana’s Republican-controlled Legislature had deferred action on an amendment during this year’s session, opting to wait for the Supreme Court rulings. Now, with the backing of GOP Gov. Mike Pence, they say the Legislature will consider the ban in the session starting in January, possibly putting the question to voters later next year.
Micah Clark, executive director of the conservative American Family Association of Indiana, was pleased by that prospect.
“The future of marriage matters,” he said. “And it belongs in the hands of Hoosier voters, not the courts, not Hollywood, and not the activists seeking to change it from what it is and always has been.”