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U.S. Supreme Court Hears Same-Sex Marriage Arguments

Posted at: 03/26/2013 5:50 PM
By: James Wilcox

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The High Court is holding two hearings regarding same-sex marriage. Tuesday's focused on California's proposition 8, which banned gay marriage.

Justices grilled lawyers on both sides of the debate. Their ruling could drastically change how states and the federal government approach one of the touchiest social issues in the past decade.

In oral arguments today, the 9 justices seemed divided over the issue of same-sex marriage, but united that perhaps the matter should not even be before the Court.

At issue - California's Proposition 8-- the 2008 ballot initiative that amended the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The court's liberal justices questioned the rationale for restricting gays and lesbians from marrying.

Justice Sonya Sotomayor asked, "Can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits?"

The conservative justices wondered how same-sex marriage could be a right guaranteed under the Constitution.

Justice Samuel Alito said, "Same sex marriage is very new. It may turn out to be a good thing. It may turn out to be not so good. It is newer than cell phones and the internet."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who could cast the deciding vote in the case, seemed to think the topic is out of the court's bounds. He also expressed empathy for children with gay parents.

He said, "The voices of these children - 40,000 children. They want their parents to have full recognition."

Sandra Spier and Kristen Perry are two of the plaintiffs in the case. Their son Spencer spoke outside the Court.

He said, "We love our family, and we look forward to the day when we will be treated equally, just like our neighbors' family."

While the justices heard the arguements, there was an almost a carnival-like atmosphere outside.

Thomas Peters, Communications Director for National Organization for Marriage, said, "Marriage is so important. it deserves to be determined by people, not unelected judges."

Wednesday, in a separate case, the justices consider the Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law denies federal benefits to same-sex couples are are legally married in their states. It could be months before the justices rule on either case.