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Roberts: 'Celebrate Today's Decision ... But Do Not Celebrate The Constitution'

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, followed by Justice Antonin Scalia, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 2013
Win McNamee
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, followed by Justice Antonin Scalia, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 2013

Updated at 11:49 a.m. ET

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions. Those dissenting were the court's four conservative justices: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito.

Roberts' Rationale

The chief justice notes that the Constitution does not take a position on "any one theory of marriage" and says the court's decision orders "every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage." Here are two striking excerpts from his dissent.

Scalia: 'Constitutional Revision'

Scalia did not mince his words, calling the majority opinion a "judicial Putsch." He joined Roberts' dissent in full, but wrote "separately to call attention to this Court's threat to American democracy." Scalia, widely regarded as one of the most conservative justices on the court, wrote that "it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me."

Here's more from his dissent:

Scalia wrote that the years-long, robust debate over same-sex marriage is "exactly how our system of government is supposed to work" and noted when the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, "every state limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so."

Scalia called the majority opinion "a naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, super-legislative — power." And, he added, the court's "highly unrepresentative panel of nine" violated "a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation." Here's more:

Scalia lashed out at the style of the majority opinion, calling it "as pretentious as its content is egotistic."

"It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so," he wrote, calling the opinion's "showy profundities ... often profoundly incoherent." Here's more:

Thomas: Decision Will Likely Cause 'Collateral Damage'

"The majority's inversion of the original meaning of liberty will likely cause collateral damage to other aspects of our constitutional order that protect liberty," Thomas wrote.

Here's more:

Alito: Constitution Leaves It To States

In his dissent, Alito wrote: "For today's majority, it does not matter that the right to same-sex marriage lacks deep roots or even that it is contrary to long-established tradition. The Justices in the majority claim the authority to confer constitutional protection upon that right simply because they believe that it is fundamental."

Alito added the court's decision will also have "other important consequences." Here's one he fears:

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.