(CNN) – With the Supreme Court announcing decisions on two big cases involving same-sex marriage Wednesday, an array of possible 2016 presidential candidates weighed in on the matter, positioning themselves in a highly-charged debate that could continue for years as states begin adapting to changes in the law.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who vetoed a same-sex marriage law in his state last year, said he did not agree with the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a significant section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies more than a thousand federal benefits to legally married, same-sex couples.
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"I don't think the ruling was appropriate. I think it was wrong," the Republican governor said on New Jersey 101.5 radio during his monthly "Ask the Governor" segment.
He argued the high court substituted the judgment of a Republican Congress and a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, when the bill was passed and signed into law in 1996.
In his ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Wednesday the purpose and effect of the original law was to “demean” those who are legally married.
But Christie said Kennedy’s opinion was "incredibly insulting" to those who ushered the measure's passage nearly 20 years ago.
"That's a heck of a thing to say about Bill Clinton and about the Republican Congress back in the 90s,” he said. “And it's just another example of judicial supremacy, rather than having government run by the people we actually vote for. So I thought it was a bad decision."
Christie said he killed last year's same-sex marriage bill, which was passed by the state legislature, because he thought it was an issue that should be decided directly by voters, not lawmakers. Personally, however, Christie is not in favor of gay and lesbian couples having the right to marry.
If another bill came before his desk proposing the same thing, Christie said he would again veto it.
"Let the people decide," he said.
But Democrats in his state, he argued, are playing political games and "don't want to put it on the ballot."
"I don't know why because they tell me all the time that it's very popular in New Jersey and would overwhelmingly pass–and they say that's a reason I should sign it," he said. "Well OK, if it's overwhelmingly popular, then put it on the ballot and it will pass."
Interestingly, Christie invited listeners who wanted same-sex marriage recognized in New Jersey to call their state representatives and urge them to put the issue on the ballot this November, when Christie will be on the same ballot for his re-election bid.
The governor has come under attack for his personal stance on same-sex marriage as recently as this week. State Sen. Barbara Buono, his Democratic opponent, and her campaign released a YouTube video of her 22-year-old daughter, Tessa, criticizing Christie.
"As a gay American, I have a stake in what our governor says about marriage equality," Tessa says in the video. She goes on to argue that her mother, if elected, would "stop the bigoted policies that have been at the cornerstone of Chris Christie's social agenda."
Other potential 2016 presidential candidates gave statements about the Supreme Court decisions Wednesday, and many Republicans held the same view as Christie, though some more strongly than others.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said the high court made a "serious mistake" and "overstepped its important, but limited role."
"These types of disagreements should be settled through the democratic process, as the Founders intended, not through litigation and court pronouncements," he said in a statement.
"My hope is that those of us who believe in the sanctity and uniqueness of traditional marriage will continue to argue for its protection in a way that is respectful to the millions of American sons and daughters who are gay," he said. "It is also my hope that those who argue for the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex marriage will refrain from assailing the millions of Americans who disagree with them as bigots."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also described the decisions as an "overreach."
"Once again, the Court has chosen to substitute its own views of public policy for the democratically expressed will of the voters," he said in a statement.
Calling the family the "fundamental building block of society," Cruz said he "strongly" supports marriage between one man and one woman, but the "courts improperly substituted their preferences for those of the people."
In contrast, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a brief statement with her husband.
"By overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, the Court recognized that discrimination towards any group holds us all back in our efforts to form a more perfect union," they said.
On the Proposition 8 ruling–which dismissed a voter-approved same-sex marriage ban in California–the Clintons were "encouraged that marriage equality may soon return" to the state.
Back on the Republican side, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, told ABC News he believes the ruling on DOMA was appropriate and said the issue should be one left to the states.
As for the growing divide among Republicans on same-sex marriage, Paul said "the party is going to have to agree to disagree on some of these issues."
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said in statement that marriage is a "unique relationship between one man and one woman" and "the foundation for the family."
In a measured manner, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee added that he respects those with a different view and wants to carry on the conversation.
"There are honest disagreements over how we should recognize different legal arrangements," he said. "The states will now decide this issue through the democratic process."
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, an unapologetic social conservative, argued the decisions were destructive to the traditional family unit. Falling in line with other Republicans, Santorum said this kind of decision should be made by voters.
"These great moral issues of our time should be left to the democratic process, not to five activist judges," he said. "Time and time again, when the definition of marriage has been put before the people, we have affirmed the unique and irreplaceable role the union of a man and a women play in society."
He pledged to continue fighting for "a definition of marriage that gives children their birthright, a mom and a dad, and our country the best chance for a great future."