Ground Shifts As Politicians Try To Stake Out Positions On Gay Marriage Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, where will the political battle lines be drawn next?
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Ground Shifts As Politicians Try To Stake Out Positions On Gay Marriage

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Ground Shifts As Politicians Try To Stake Out Positions On Gay Marriage

Ground Shifts As Politicians Try To Stake Out Positions On Gay Marriage

Ground Shifts As Politicians Try To Stake Out Positions On Gay Marriage

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Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, where will the political battle lines be drawn next?

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The White House was bathed in rainbow colors overnight to celebrate the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. President Obama, and the Democratic presidential candidates who have declared praised the ruling just about as quickly. Most Republican presidential candidates denounced the ruling as politicians tried to stake out positions, though, the ground is shifting beneath their feet. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ADVOCATES: (Singing) We will marry free.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Advocates for same-sex marriage celebrated outside the Supreme Court as Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered his 5-4 decision. President Obama says it shows that shifts in hearts and minds are possible, and he added, those who've enjoyed such progress have a responsibility to help others. At a victory rally in San Francisco, Kate Kendell, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, promised to do just that.

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KATE KENDELL: Our charge is to take this momentum, to move it forward, to battle racism, to battle economic inequality, to be sure that no one is left behind. No one is left behind.

(APPLAUSE)

HORSLEY: Obama cautioned, though, that while, for marriage advocates, the change had been slow in coming, for many others it will seem very quick. Opponents, like Tami Fitzgerald of the North Carolina Values Coalition, insist the battle is far from over.

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TAMI FITZGERALD: We believe that this decision no more settles the issue of same-sex marriage than Roe v. Wade settled the issue of abortion.

HORSLEY: Some have long argued that by short-circuiting the political debate over gay marriage, the High Court could spark a Roe-style backlash. Public attitudes were already shifting rapidly in support of marriage equality. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans now approve of same-sex marriage, and for those under 30, the numbers are even higher. Republican primary voters are more conservative, though, so GOP presidential hopefuls tried to court that conservative base without going overboard. Jeb Bush issued a statement saying the High Court should've left the mayor's decision to the states, but he added, we should love our neighbor and respect others. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a similar tack.

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GOV/PRES CAND CHRIS CHRISTIE: I think this is something that should be decided by the people of each state. That being said, our job is going to be to support the law of the land and that, under the Supreme Court's ruling, is now the law of the land.

HORSLEY: GOP candidates stress the need to protect those who have a religious objection to same-sex marriage. Religious leaders don't have to perform gay weddings if they don't want to, but Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal asked, what about business people who don't want to work for gay couples?

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GOV/PRES CAND BOBBY JINDAL: We see, all the time, in states across this country, where business owners, caterers, florists, musicians are facing discrimination simply because they want to follow their conscience.

HORSLEY: North Carolina has also passed a law allowing state officials to opt out of issuing marriage licenses if they have a religious objection. Tami Fitzgerald of the Values Coalition warns gay advocates should not celebrate prematurely.

FITZGERALD: If they want to do a little victory dance and assume that just because the court has legalized same-sex marriage, that they're also going to take away the religious freedoms of Americans, I think they will overplay their hand.

HORSLEY: Here too, though, the ground is shifting. Earlier this year, Indiana lawmakers were forced to backtrack on a law that would've allowed businesses to deny service to gay couples after a storm of protests from the business community. James Esseks, of the American Civil Liberties Union, says florists and caterers don't get to pick and choose their customers.

JAMES ESSEKS: If I run a business that's open to the public, well, open to the public means open to everybody.

HORSLEY: Esseks adds, actual religious conflicts have been relatively rare in the states where same-sex marriage was already legal, and he expects that trend will continue as weddings spread to all 50 states.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COUNCILWOMAN MEGAN BARRY: I, Nikki.

NIKKI VONHAEJER: I, Nikki.

BARRY: Take you, Lauren (ph).

VONHAEJER: Take you, Lauren.

BARRY: To be my wife.

VONHAEJER: To be my wife.

HORSLEY: Justice Kennedy made his own appeal to conservatives, writing, the history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. Gay couples aren't trying to denigrate the institution, he said, but rather, live their lives, joined by its bond.

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BARRY: I now pronounce you both, married. You may kiss each other.

(APPLAUSE)

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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