Roberts, whose 41-year-old daughter is a lesbian, predicted that the ruling would ease inhibitions of gay people in Maryland, especially those who often travel across state lines.
"I know people who jokingly say, `I'm afraid to have a rainbow on my car,'" she said because they commute to Virginia, which banned homosexual and heterosexual sodomy. "Now I think people can be proud about who they are."
Several Christian congregations in Howard County welcome people of all backgrounds and sexual orientations, said the Rev. Beth O'Malley, pastor of Columbia United Christian Church in Columbia. The Supreme Court ruling, she said, "pushes with the force of law the sense that, at a basic level, we all have a right to be safe."
But more conservative religious figures denounced the decision.
"It's bad policy, it's pushing further the gay and lesbian agenda," said Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat who is also pastor of Rising Sun Baptist Church in Woodlawn. "It opens the door for same-sex marriage, goes against the laws of nature. Men were not meant to be in love, in a romantic way, with men."
The Rev. Steven Hooker, pastor of New Beginnings Church of God in Bel Air, said the ruling underscores a perennial struggle between moral and humanistic concerns in America, but "we know the Bible completely condemns sodomy."
Hooker added that sexual acts should promote creation of life, and that homosexuality represents the "imbalance of man's lust." He said the ruling and changing culture surrounding gay and lesbian issues are matters with which the faith community struggles.
"It comes down to choosing our lust, or actually choosing the right way, which is God's moral law."
In Carroll County, a Republican stronghold that one clergyman called a "Bible Belt-type county," the court's decision prompted disappointment.
"Just because something is legal doesn't make it moral or true. Law doesn't change people's hearts," said Thomas, the pastor at New Life Foursquare Gospel Church.
Reconciling this belief with the concept of compassionate Christianity is not easy, he conceded.
"It's a tough one. I know we at our church really work hard to minister to all people regardless of sexual preference, but at the same time understanding there are consequences to what I would call cultural sins."
Sun staff writers Alyson Klein, Lane Harvey Brown, Athima Chansanchai, Ryan Davis and Liz Kay contributed to this article.