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After landmark court rulings, opponents of gay marriage ready for national battle

Stephen Crowley / Redux Pictures

The Rev. Rob Schenck, of Faith and Action, an opponent of same-sex marriage, prays outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, June 26, 2013.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are gearing up for a national battle to block gays and lesbians from tying the knot, saying the country is “perilously close” to legalizing such unions in all 50 states after recent Supreme Court decisions.

Those rulings last week allowed same-sex marriage to resume in California (the Proposition 8 case) and struck down a 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages in the District of Columbia and the 13 states where such unions are legal.

“It’s very difficult to read the majority opinion in the Windsor case (DOMA) and not conclude that a majority of the court wants to impose same-sex marriage,” said Frank Schubert, political director of the National Organization for Marriage, which has led the fight to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

“We need to redouble our efforts to engage the American people in a large movement to preserve marriage, one that would serve notice to the court that if they seek to constitutionalize same-sex marriage they risk a massive public revolt,” he added. “It’s imperative on us to mobilize people across the country who believe in marriage and to explain to them how close we are to losing it.”

In the days since the court decisions, groups opposed to same-sex marriage have been meeting to craft the contours of what that national battle may entail, said Schubert. He declined to provide specifics but said it could include legislative and court actions.  

One thing is clear: they’ll need money to do that, Schubert said, particularly given how successful the same-sex marriage camp has been at raising cash for state by state contests.

All of the four votes on the issue last November went to the same-sex camp, which significantly outraised groups fighting gay marriage.

John Milburn / AP file

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp.

“One thing we need to do is figure out a way to tap into the broad community of faith and raise money,” Schubert said Friday. “And if we're not successful at that, then we're going to have a very difficult time being competitive in the state campaign marketplace.”

Other opponents of gay marriage have announced plans in the wake of Wednesday's rulings: House Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) introduced legislation on Friday to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, while Indiana Gov. Mike Pence urged the state legislature to approve a popular vote for 2014 to ban gay marriage.

 Pence wrote online that he was disappointed with the court decisions but grateful that the justices “respect the sovereignty of states on this important issue. These decisions preserve the duty and obligation of the states to define and administer marriage as they see fit.”

Thirty-five states have done just that, and the justices didn’t touch DOMA’s Section 2 – which allows states to define marriage.

But questions quickly arose in the aftermath of the rulings about how gay and lesbian couples who legally wed in one state would be treated in another where same-sex marriage is banned.

“It’s a very natural follow-up lawsuit,” said Ken Klukowski, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, in a speech on Thursday. “I would be concerned as to how that case would come up. So I think we are right now one case away from Section 2 of DOMA likewise being struck down.”

With that in mind, NOM's Schubert said they have to adapt to the “new reality” and see what “changes we need to make in our approach.”

"We’ve got to meet the challenge of making this a national issue because that's what it is now,” he said. “The reality prior to these decisions was that… if you want to win on marriage, you have to win it at the state level. And that is certainly still true, but it’s also true that we are perilously close to having the United States Supreme Court impose a view of marriage that we very much disagree with.”

Ryan Anderson, who opposes same-sex marriage and is a fellow at conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, said in an opinion piece published in The Daily Caller that those who share his views would need to “take a long view” that didn’t “look to immediate wins or losses.”

He wrote they would have to “redouble” their “efforts at explaining what marriage is, why marriage matters and what the consequences are ofredefining marriage. The left wants to insist that the redefinition of marriage is ‘inevitable,’” he wrote.

While opponents plot the way forward, same-sex marriage supporters said the wins gave them fuel. They aim to have a majority of Americans living in states where same-sex marriage is legal by 2016, and they believe the Supreme Court will ultimately give a final resolution to the issue.

They celebrated Wednesday night, but already had plans to get back to work the next day, said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry. They, too, are focusing on state contests – such as trying to reverse bans in Michigan and Ohio, as well as push through same-sex marriage in Illinois and New Jersey.

“We need to put together smart, strategic campaigns but at the center of those campaigns are loving and committed couples who are making the case,” he said. “Honestly, that’s the secret weapon that our side has that our opponents don’t have. We have families who can share their real stories about why marriage is important to them … and our opponents can point to some amorphous fear that they have.”

Though the court’s decisions were disappointing for the anti-gay marriage side, Schubert did see a potential silver lining to them as they work to make their national case.

“We have an opportunity to play in states that are much stronger for us and (to) be able to engage people there in a way that we couldn’t before because in the past there's not been a credible threat to marriage in Texas or South Carolina or any of these other states. Now there is,” he said. “Now the wolf is at the door and we are going to meet the challenge as aggressively as we can."

Are you part of a same-sex couple hoping to get married but living in a state where you cannot do so? Are you a couple in California planning to get married? Share your stories with reporter Miranda Leitsinger at miranda.leitsinger@nbcuni.com. Also note if your comments can be used and provide a telephone number.