They didn't assert a fundamental right of same-sex couples to be married, but the momentum here is unambiguous and, I think, inevitable. Given the generational divide on this issue--the broad and growing acceptance of homosexual couples and relationships among young Americans--we are seeing an accelerating move towards the normalization of same-sex relationships. The traditional categorical condemnation of same-sex romantic and sexual intimacy is steadily being cast off.
Conservative Christians are likely to see this as a tragic cultural shift away from the teachings of God, and will thus double down in their opposition, calling with renewed urgency for Christians to resist being sucked in by cultural "permissiveness." But these conservative voices, while still strong in most branches of Christianity, are confronting growing opposition from within. More and more Christians are adopting a progressive stance on the topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
There has been a long tendency for conservative Christians to paint these internal critics of the traditional view as nothing but sell-outs to secular culture.
For example, a few years back, in an October 2002 Kansas City "Conference on Christian Sexuality," conservative Lutheran theologian John Nestingen framed the debate over homosexuality within the ELCA (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) as a fight between cultural accommodationists and those who hold firm to Christian moral restraint of sexual practice. Here's how he puts it in the opening paragraphs to his talk, "Is There a Law? Lutheranism and Homosexual Practice":
Since cultural sexual standards began to shift in the l960s, the basic approach of Lutherans in the ELCA tradition has been accommodation. Though proudly part of the larger Catholic consensus, our church has sometimes in official pronouncements, more often willy-nilly, surrendered standards of sexual behavior that have been definitive for the church for two millennia.
The current presenting issue is homosexual practice. The issue did not arise out of the larger Christian or a particularly Lutheran agenda, say for instance, a special concern for evangelism among homosexuals. It is a cultural conflict, a part of an ongoing North American societal undercutting of what were once commonly accepted sexual restraints, the expectation being that the church will continue to accommodate. The question is if there is anything left in our heritage that holds. Is concession that only available alternative? Is there something in the Lutheran tradition that we can and must say to a society bent on liberating the individual from all external restraints?