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Battleground DOMA: What next for opponents of gay marriage?

After twin losses at the Supreme Court, the battleground shifts to the states, where social conservative leaders aim to 'fight like crazy,' with little help from the national GOP establishment.

By Staff writer / June 27, 2013

Enzo Catalano, 9, holds up a sign amongst thousands of revelers at Castro St. in San Francisco, Calif., after the United States Supreme Court delivered rulings on California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act June 26, 2013. Opponents of the ruling now face a long battle in the states, as support for gay marriage nationally grows.

Noah Berger/REUTERS

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WASHINGTON

Some are angry, others are philosophical, but opponents of same-sex marriage agree on one thing: The battle against gay marriage just got tougher, after twin losses in the Supreme Court that have given pro-gay-marriage forces a burst of momentum. 

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But social conservatives are ready to press on in the states, in defense of a religiously based definition of marriage that has endured for millennia, even if they don’t expect much help from the Republican establishment. 

“The mix of decisions magnifies the fact that people who believe in normal marriage need to fight like crazy at the state level to ensure that they keep the right to define what they want marriage to be in their state,” says Gary Bauer, leader of the group American Values and one-time Republican presidential candidate.

For now, Christian conservative activists have a cushion. Gay marriage is banned in the constitutions of 30 states, and even though nationally, a growing majority of Americans supports a right to same-sex marriage, many individual states still tilt against it. Social conservative leaders also have a ready army of supporters, easily reached through churches and representing a significant portion of the Republican Party’s base.

Keeping the traditional-marriage-only wing of the GOP from becoming demoralized will be part of the battle. But after Wednesday’s rulings – which struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and opened the door to a resumption of gay marriages in California – conservative leaders expressed hope that their supporters would be all the more motivated to keep fighting.

Some leaders took a glass-half-full approach to the decisions, applauding the justices for, at least, not establishing a national right to same-sex marriage as the high court did for abortion in the 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade.  That, they say, gives them time to get organized and rally their troops, even if, by outward appearances, time is not on their side.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, asserts that, in fact, time is not on the side of those seeking to create a right to same-sex marriage.  

“As the American people are given time to experience the actual consequences of redefining marriage, the public debate and opposition to the redefinition of natural marriage will undoubtedly intensify,” Mr. Perkins says.

His ally Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, calls for pressure on Congress to pass legislation that will limit the impact of the DOMA ruling. And he goes back to a core focus of religious conservatives -- the selection of judges.

The Supreme Court’s decisions “underscore why people of faith must remain engaged and energetic in seeing genuine conservatives nominated and confirmed to the federal courts,” says Mr. Reed. That requires electing conservative senators who will make judicial confirmation battles a priority.

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