Critics of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage are comparing it to some of the most divisive opinions from the court’s past.
Some opponents of gay marriage said they saw parallels in Friday morning’s historic 5-4 decision to the notorious Dred Scott ruling in 1857, which found African Americans were not American citizens, and Roe v. Wade, a decision upholding abortion rights.
“Today, five unelected justices decided to redefine the foundational unit that binds together our society without public debate or input,” said former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who is running for president.
“The Court is one of three co-equal branches of government, and just as they have in cases from Dred Scott to Plessy, the Court has an imperfect track record,” Santorum said.
“Now is the people’s opportunity to respond because the future of the institution of marriage is too important not to have a public debate,” he added.
Dred Scott is widely considered by legal scholars to be one of the worst rulings in the history of the Supreme Court. Plessy vs. Ferguson was the ruling that affirmed the "separate but equal" doctrine of racial segregation that was ultimately abolished.
The Conservative activist group Heritage Action accused the Supreme Court of overstepping its authority to alter the definition of marriage.
“The Supreme Court got it wrong,” said Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham said.
“This is judicial activism plain and simple — on par with Roe v. Wade,” he said.
“Nothing in the Constitution requires the redefinition of marriage and unelected judges shouldn’t have redefined marriage for the entire country,” he added.
Needham urged Congress to help preserve religious liberty in the wake of the decision by passing legislation protecting the right to oppose gay marriage.
“Congress must pass the First Amendment Defense Act to ensure the federal government respects individuals, businesses and organizations to act in accordance with their beliefs about marriage,” he said.
Concerned Women for America (CWA) said that the court’s decision had invalidated millions of votes cast by Americans against gay marriage in their states.
“It is a sad day in American when nine unelected justices think themselves so powerful that they dare overturn the votes of millions of Americans who went to the voting booth to preserve marriage as it has been understood throughout history — the marriage between one man and one woman,” said CWA CEO Peggy Noonan in a statement.
“For that reason, this case is about much more than marriage and will go down in history alongside other appalling Supreme Court rulings, like Dred Scott and Roe,” she said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy provided the swing-vote in the gay-marriage case by siding with the Supreme Court’s more liberal justices in a 5-4 decision.
“It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the nation’s society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage,” Kennedy wrote in the 34-page ruling.
The Supreme Court’s decision declares that all states must recognize same-sex marriages as valid under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. It also rejects arguments that granting same-sex marriages devalues or harms the institution of traditional marriage.
— This story was updated at 12:05 p.m.