For Republicans, the same-sex marriage rulings were something of a Rorshach test, exposing the almost timeless fault line between the party's pragmatists and its ideologues.
For figures in the party's establishment like Kochel, the rulings were met with a sinking feeling that same-sex marriage is increasingly a settled matter for voters and a potent wedge issue that Democrats can exploit for political gain in battleground states and in national elections.
Statements from the establishment wing of the party Wednesday were either risk-averse or nonexistent.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus issued no comment on the ruling. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dodged a question about it. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan said he opposes same-sex marriage but called for "respect," "civility" and "understanding" as people work through their "honest disagreements."
Most of the Republicans considering presidential bids in 2016 proceeded with caution, aware that their statements will likely be revisited if they ever become the party's standard-bearer in a general election.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio issued a nearly 500-word commentary explaining his opposition to same-sex marriage.
But for outspoken conservatives who tend to get rewarded in Republican primaries, the opinions were greeted with fury -- general election consequences be damned.
Santorum, who is expected to make another play for the White House in 2016, attacked the "activist judges" on the court. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a freshman senator who harbors obvious national ambitions, called the rulings "a regrettable overreach against the will of the people."
These harsh denouncements had the added benefit of stoking outrage among family values conservatives around the country who contribute financially to their causes.
The mood was similar among Republican candidates further down the ballot, who are running in gerrymandered House districts where winning a GOP primary is the only victory that matters -- providing little political incentive to side with gays and lesbians.
Take this year's special election in Alabama's ruby red 1st Congressional District, where former state Sen. Bradley Byrne, a front-runner for the seat, wasted little time in hammering the court. "I am disappointed in today's decision, but know that Alabamians stand strong in supporting our states' right to define marriage without intrusion from the federal government," Byrne said.
In Byrne's hometown of Mobile, as in the rest of the South, there is less appetite for same-sex marriage than in other parts of the country.
In the Northeast, 63% of Americans favor legal rights for same-sex couples, according to a recent CNN poll. In the West, 58% of Americans say the same. But in the Midwest, the number of people who approve of same-sex marriage is 51%, and in the South, it's 49%.
Those also happen to be regions where Senate Democrats find themselves in potentially difficult re-election fights -- suggesting that while opinions about marriage may buoy Democrats nationally and in swing states, the issue is more perilous for the party in places such as Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas, where incumbent Senate Democrats will be on the ballot next year.