Republican lawmakers from Tennessee offered muted responses to a pair of Supreme Court rulings Wednesday, which ended a federal law discriminating against same-sex couples and paved the road for decisions on the issue in the future.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that denied federal benefits from being offered to gay couples married under state laws. The group also opted 5-4 to let a district court ruling on Proposition 8 stand, declaring that a voter initiative to ban same-sex marriage in California was unconstitutional—a move that effectively allows the state to become the 13th in the nation where gay marriage is fully recognized.
As lawmakers across the country offered opinions on the matter, Republican senators and congressmen from Tennessee delivered brief statements. As longtime backers of traditional marriage between a man and a woman, no lawmakers indicated the court's rulings had changed their perspective on the issue.
Sen. Lamar Alexander said the opinions were correct in that they left the decision on whether to recognize same-sex marriage to individual states.
"The Supreme Court's decision preserves the right of states to define marriage and for that definition to be respected by other states, and that's the way it should be," Alexander said in an emailed statement.
Sen. Bob Corker declined to comment on the decisions, instead saying through a spokesperson that his office was "working through the two opinions" to determine their broader implications.
Congressmen from the Chattanooga area reiterated their longtime positions backing traditional marriage.
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann described the court's ruling as "disappointing" and said he was confident that the majority of Tennesseans would share his belief "in the importance of traditional marriage."
"While the Supreme Court's ruling was disappointing to me personally, I will continue to believe in the importance of traditional marriage," Fleischmann said. "The marriage debate will continue at the state level, and it has been my experience that the vast majority of Tennesseans believe, as I do, that marriage is between a man and a woman."
Robert Jameson, press secretary for Rep. Scott DesJarlais, did not acknowledge the rulings. Instead, Jameson simply stated that DesJarlais "believes marriage is between one man and one woman."