Jessica: The line started to form outside the Supreme Court last Thursday, people all waiting to be part of history. For the first time, the Supreme Court is tackling the issue of same-sex marriage, a debate that has been brewing across the country for years.
The court will hear two days of arguments in two different cases. Today, the justices focus on whether or not states can outlaw same-sex marriage. Five years ago, California voters passed Proposition 8, which requires that marriage be between a man and woman only. Tomorrow, the justices will take up the second case. This time, focusing on a federal law, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which also only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman.
Supporters of the law say they protect traditional views of marriage.
Andy Pugno: Mothers and fathers are both important for children, and that honoring traditional marriage as a special institution is a perfectly reasonable way of encouraging that optimal environment.
Jessica: Those against same-sex marriage also say voters should decide how marriage should be defined, not the Supreme Court.
Austin Nimocks: The last thing we need is to shut down the debate, have the Supreme Court redefine marriage for everybody instead of letting us work through this question through our democratic institutions.
Protesters: Stop the hate! Repeal Prop 8!
Jessica: But opponents of Proposition 8 and DOMA say the laws violate the Constitution because they discriminate against gay couples. And they say this is a fight for civil rights.
Paul Katami: It’s not even a question really about how to define marriage or what’s happening with marriage. It’s a question of equality!
Evan Wolfson: The freedom to marry is one of the precious freedoms that all of us cherish. And gay people, like non-gay people, deserve, under the Constitution, the ability to shape a family, to build a life and to have these dreams.
Jessica: Without the ability to marry, same-sex couples are not entitled to benefits, including tax breaks and certain legal protections – things that straight married couples receive.
In the past, a majority of Americans have been against same-sex marriage, but that is starting to change. Nine states and the District of Columbia currently recognize gay marriage.
According to a Pew Research poll, today 49% of Americans support same-sex marriage, 44% oppose it. In 2001, just 35% of Americans supported it and 57% opposed it. This change is partly due to young people. Seventy percent of Millennials, or those born in 1981 or after, support same-sex marriage.
- What is the fundamental question the Supreme Court judges intend to answer?
- What is DOMA, and why does it matter in these cases?
- Where do most Americans seem to stand on the issue of same-sex marriage?
- Why do you think many attitudes about same-sex marriage have changed over time?