March 28, 2013

Same-Sex Marriage

The Court won't rule for months, but the cases started an intense debate.

Maggie: Opinions are being heard from Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage became legal in 2004…

Supporter: Everyone should be able to get married if they want to.

Maggie: …to California, where voters banned same-sex marriage five years ago.

Thomas Peters: The Supreme Court should not cut this debate short, and should respect the votes of over 7 million Californians.

Maggie: And now we await the opinion of the Supreme Court, which spent two days hearing arguments on same-sex marriage. Yesterday, the justices questioned lawyers about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a federal law which defines marriage as between only a man and a woman. The law says that same-sex couples can’t receive the same benefits and tax breaks as heterosexual married couples get.

The DOMA case began when Edith Windsor sued over the $363,000 estate tax bill she got when her partner of forty-four years died. If Windsor had been married to a man, that tax bill would have been zero.

Edith Windsor: I know that the spirit of my late spouse Thea Spyer, ok, is right here watching and listening and would be very proud and happy of where we’ve come to.

Maggie: The other case now before the court concerns California’s Proposition 8, the state ban on same-sex marriage that had been approved by voters but overturned in a lower court.

On Tuesday, Charles Cooper, the attorney representing Proposition 8 supporters, argued that marriage should be between a man and a woman because only they can produce children.

Justice Elena Kagan asked if older Americans should be prevented from getting married as well, because they can’t have children either.

Justice Kagan: I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.

Maggie: And Justice Anthony Kennedy brought up the young people already being raised by same-sex couples in California.

Justice Kennedy: There are some 40,000 children in California that live with same-sex parents and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status.

Maggie: But Justice Samuel Alito questioned whether our society has enough information yet about the potential effects of same-sex marriage.

Justice Alito: But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the internet? I mean, we are – we do not have the ability to see the future.

Maggie: There were also a lot of questions about whether it is appropriate for the justices to rule in matters that arguably should be decided by the states, and not on the federal level. So it is possible the court could decide not to decide in either case, which would still leave the question, do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry?

Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.


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