WASHINGTON – Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., declined Wednesday to take a position on the merits of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling that opens up a host of federal benefits to married gay and lesbian couples.
"Who's to say if it's a good move or a bad move by the court?" Fischer said during her weekly conference call with reporters. "We have a democracy. We have three branches of government. The Supreme Court did its job and ruled that the law was unconstitutional. So now it's, as I said, it's up to the states."
She said the court's ruling on DOMA only applies to federal benefits and that neither it or another ruling on gay marriage issued Wednesday should interfere with Nebraska's ban on gay marriage.
"It seems as though the states are going to be the ones that can move forward and decide, as I believe they should always have the right to decide at the state level on how the people in their state want this to be handled within their state," Fischer said.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., disagreed with the court's decision.
"Got to live with it," Terry said. "I'm a traditional marriage person and believe that states should be able to determine their own marriage laws, but the Supreme Court has spoken."
"It is the Supreme Court," he said. "And I've disagreed with them a lot but it is the law of the land."
Asked about the merits of the decision, Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said he hadn't read it yet.
"There are still some unclear parts, but I think they've spoken and we're going to have to formulate policy around that."
Chuck Hagel: 'It is the right thing to do'
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a statement Wednesday welcoming the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
"The department will immediately begin the process of implementing the Supreme Court's decision in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies," Hagel said in his statement.
"The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses – regardless of sexual orientation – as soon as possible. That is now the law, and it is the right thing to do."
With millions of people on its payroll, both in and out of uniform, the Pentagon has a huge piece of the federal government's task of working through which benefits will be available to whom.
A former GOP senator from Nebraska, Hagel just hosted an LGBT Pride Month event at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
"Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment," Hagel said in his statement Wednesday. "All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country and their qualifications to do so. Today's ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally, with the full dignity and respect they so richly deserve."
Iowa lawmakers' responses vary
WASHINGTON – Iowa lawmakers had different reactions to the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, welcomed the decision, saying he's proud that Iowa has led the way on marriage equality.
"Today's decision by the Supreme Court is a victory for all married Iowans, gay or straight, who can now love one another without fear of discrimination by the federal government," Harkin said. "I am glad that the court recognized that all American families deserve the same legal protections."
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that he supported DOMA when it was approved.
"I support traditional marriage and I hope the states, where the debate had been for more than 200 years, will uphold marriage between one man and one woman," Grassley said.
Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, said he disagreed with the decision.
"It should be up to Congress and the president to make law, in this case certainly," Latham said.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, expressed his own dismay over the outcome.
"I am disappointed in the Court's ruling today because the American people should hold the power to determine marriage policy, not the Supreme Court," King said. "I believe DOMA meets all constitutional standards and I am disappointed that a technical, standing issue means that gay marriage is legal in California despite the will of the voters who enacted Proposition 8.
King said the court stopped short of actually redefining marriages, leaving that up to the states.
"Thirty-eight states to date have chosen to identify only traditional marriage," he said. "The attempt to redefine marriage will not change the fact that limited government should be responsible for making this decision, and that marriage marks the sacred union of one man and one woman."