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Supreme Court To Address Same-Sex Marriage

Posted at: 12/07/2012 9:15 PM
Updated at: 12/07/2012 10:13 PM
By: Dietrich Nissen

(ABC 6 News) -- On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will take on two cases regarding gay marriage. One of the cases could even lead the court to decide whether same-sex marriage is a fundamental right.

As a Rochester police officer, Lieutenant Eli Umpierre says the dangers of her job left her constantly worrying for her same-sex partner.

"Had I died in the line of duty, she wouldn't have gotten any benefits," says Umpierre. That's because the law does not allow her to share the job's survivor benefits, even if the two were married.

"It's very frustrating any time someone's right are not equal to another's," says Umpierre. This part of the Defense Of Marriage Act, which defines marriage between a man and a woman, is what the Supreme Court will look at this spring.

The question being brought up is, can the federal government deny federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples? These are benefits heterosexual couples are automatically granted.

"What's the difference from what they did for us as a public servant like- and their spouses can't collect compared to their straight counterparts," says Vangie Castro with the Rochester Diversity Council.

The court will also look at Proposition 8, a controversial California ballot initiative which passed back in 2008. It restricts marriage to opposite-sex couples and raises whether same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry.

"Getting to this point where we're actually going to hear it in the higher courts - in the Supreme Courts. I think it's a huge win," says Castro.

However, not everyone agrees with the idea of same-sex marriage. During the recent election, Republican State Representative Mike Benson told us his position.

"Marriage has been for thousands of years as defined between one man and one woman culturally, legally, socially," said Benson back in May. He told us men and women are not interchangeable role models.

"Any same-sex marriage where there is children there's always going to be three parents. Ya know, the two same-sex and then whichever sex that helped to bring that child into this world," said Benson.

Also on Friday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton announced he wants to include same-sex domestic partner benefits in future state employee contracts. If adopted, partners of state employees, like Umpierre, could be eligible for family health and dental coverage.  

"The timing to move towards equal rights, it's always the right time," says Umpierre.

When reached, Republican State Senator David Senjem, says given the outcome of the public vote on the marriage amendment, all legislators need to think about what that means and how to proceed.

As for the federal cases, the Supreme Court is expected to hear the arguments in March with a ruling sometime in June.