U.S. Supreme Court to hear landmark same-sex marriage case

Spectators line up for days to watch the historic case

Sandy Stier, left, and Kris Perry of Berkeley, Calif., arrive at the National Archives in Washington, Monday, March 25, 2013, to view the U.S. Constitution, a day before their same-sex marriage case is argued before the Supreme Court. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

The U.S. Supreme Court will today hear arguments in a landmark gay marriage case that could make same-sex marriages legal in the States.

On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments against Proposition 8, California’s 2008 law that prohibits same-sex marriage and defines marriage as taking place between a man and a woman. Up on Wednesday are arguments for and against DOMA, the Defence of Marriage act, which bars the federal government from offering some rights to same-sex couples, even if their home state allows them to wed.

This court case will not be televised, so both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage have been lined up outside the court since as early as Thursday, waiting for one of the few spaces inside. Those in the line have endured some nasty spring weather, including snow, during their camp out. A report in Washington blog DCist says the first ones in line seemed to be in the pro-gay-marriage camp.

Two of the plaintiffs the court will hear from Tuesday are Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, a couple from Burbank, California. “Stigma is stigma. And discrimination is discrimination,” Katami told CNN. “I think that any time there’s discrimination in the country it needs to be addressed and it needs to be taken care of. And that’s why we feel that anytime in our history when there’s been racial discrimination or sexual discrimination of orientation or in particular marriage at this point that we always bend toward the arch of equality.”

Court will also hear from Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, a California couple that has been together since 1997 and are the parents of four boys.

While same-sex marriage is a politically charged issue in the States, it has gained new supporters in the past month. The Washington Post came out firmly in favour of overturning both DOMA and Proposition 8. In the Monday editorial, the paper wrote: “denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry is unjustifiable discrimination, and denying federal benefits to duly married couples is even more obviously repugnant to the notion of equal protection.”

Hillary Clinton recorded a video where she spoke in favour of same-sex marriage earlier in March. “I believe America is at its best when we champion the freedom and dignity of every human being,” Clinton said in the video.

Even some Republicans have broken party ranks to support marriage equality. This includes Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who reversed his position on same-sex marriage to support his a gay son.

Former president Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA into law in 1996, has also reversed his position on same-sex marriage, writing in a Washington Post opinion article: “As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is contrary to those principles and, in fact, incompatible with our Constitution.”

While the court will hear arguments Tuesday and Wednesday, a decision in the case is not expected until June.

Gay marriage is currently legal in: Washington, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, and New York. Nine more states have some sort of civil union law for same-sex couples.

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