The court made a bad call.
In its rush to be seen as progressive and on the right side of history, it “solved” one problem while leaving too many unresolved, and it overturned the republican method in the process.
Here is what should have happened:
Marriage, if it is going to be defined by government at all, would be left up to the states based on the Constitution and Amendments IX and X. Since marriage is not mentioned as something the federal government would have a say in, it would have to be a state decision. If a state wants to define marriage as between two people of the opposite sex only, or include two people of the same sex, or choose not to define it in any capacity at all, that would be up to the state to determine.
However, there is a little something called the full faith and credit clause which, I think, could be applied to marriage contracts without too much trouble. What it means is a marriage valid in one state would, therefore, be valid in all other states, too. This means a same-sex couple could travel to another state, be married, and when they moved back to their home state, their marriage would still be valid. Eventually this might become quite a hassle for states that didn’t want to go along at first, and this and social pressure would, sooner or later, result in those less-than-willing states to legalize it anyway. Yes, it would take a lot longer (years longer) than people want, but I am persuaded that too many people in their rush for immediate gratification forgot about a few very big problems that need to be resolved alongside the now-resolved marriage question.
The biggest problem I can think of that is still unresolved is that in several states it is legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation. This is wrong, but it is still the law of the land in many areas, and it remains the law of the land in these states even with this court decision. So what now? You could have a theoretical instance where two people of the same sex marry, one’s employer finds out about it, and conjures up a reason for dismissal that has to do with not wanting “people like that” on the job. Repulsive, but still possible. Ideally, it would have been better to work on both of those (discrimination problems and marriage) at once.
Now I have no doubt that the discrimination problem will be resolved shortly, but we’re going to have to put up with this fight even longer while that change works its way through the system. It will probably be resolved at the federal level within the next couple years depending on which ideology is popular in twelve months or so, but if it had been left at the state level, these problems could have been resolved side-by-side.
A couple other thoughts, only marginally related to the above…
I am sure there are many conservative evangelicals who are very upset today, although they should not have been surprised by today’s ruling. Our society has been steadily marching down this path for years, cheapening marriage a little more every decade, forgetting the glory it once held and turning it into a validation of the feelings you have for someone. So really, today is only the next logical step.
The church got it wrong, too. I want to admire its endeavor to uphold what it holds as good and true, but it was going about it all the wrong ways. Going to the court, influencing the legislature to pass laws to enshrine your beliefs into public law, that was the wrong way to do it. If they really wanted to get the message across effectively, they might try leading by example. Want the world to know what marriage is? Try living it. Try staying with your spouse rather than forming a contract based and dependent on emotion and dissolving the contract when the feeling is gone.
It will not change the law you do not like, but at least you’ll be consistent in your application.
Edit: Removed most of the sarcasm at the end.