Angry conservatives intend to make same-sex marriage a top 2012 election issue both nationally and in the states after the Obama administration's announcement that it will no longer defend the federal law that denies recognition to gay married couples.
Conservatives say President Obama has let his personal views guide him from his duty to defend the laws of the land. They say that they expect their 2012 presidential nominee to highlight the marriage debate.
"The ripple effect nationwide will be to galvanize supporters of marriage," said staff counsel Jim Campbell of Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal group.
At the federal level, conservatives have urged Republicans in the House of Representatives to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA.
"The president has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging Congress," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "It is incumbent upon the Republican leadership to respond by intervening to defend DOMA, or they will become complicit in the president's neglect of duty."
Perkins suggested that House Republicans would risk alienating their conservative base if they did not tackle the marriage issue head-on.
"The president was kind of tossing this cultural grenade into the Republican camp," he told the Associated Press.
"If they ignore this, it becomes an issue that will lead to some very troubling outcomes for Republicans," he added.
Currently, a total of 30 states have enacted defense of marriage amendments. Only five states including Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire have legalized gay marriage. The Maryland State Senate passed a bill Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage. The measure must be approved by the state House of Delegates before it goes to the governor's desk.