Same-sex marriage cases in hands of Supreme Court

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:


WASHINGTON - Two historic cases over same-sex marriage are in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A second day of arguments has concluded after a fierce debate over the federal government's restrictions on same-sex marriage.

Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane was in the courtroom for both days of arguments on California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

MacFarlane said Wednesday the Supreme Court justices openly questioned whether it's constitutional for the U.S. government to limit the benefits it gives same-sex married couples.

"What gives the federal government the right to be concerned at all about what the definition of marriage is?" Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

"You're saying well, state, there are two kinds of marriages. The full marriage and then this sort of "skim-milk" marriage," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

One justice questioned why the U.S. government would deny same-sex married couples Social Security benefits and sick leave to visit a spouse who'd fallen ill.

MacFarlane said he noticed the conservative justices were silent for nearly 30 minutes while the attorney defending the same-sex marriage restrictions made his case.

The attorney said, without the Defense of Marriage Act, all 50 states and Washington, D.C. could be forced to recognize same-sex marriage if just one state does.

The law, he said, has helped make the idea of marriage clearer.

"It defines the term wherever it appears in federal law in a consistent way," said Paul Clement, the lawyer defending DOMA.

Not being able to hear what was happening inside the courtroom, huge crowds formed again outside.

"You guys, I'm talking to you freely. I would've been hiding in a closet 10 years ago," a woman from New York said during a news conference.

Supporters of the same-sex marriage ban also spoke to the crowd and TV cameras.

"While we stand for the defense of marriage as between one man and one woman, it is quite clear that definition on the federal (government) is at great risk, likely by five to four," said Robert Schenck with the Evangelical Church Alliance.

In the courtroom, MacFarlane said many of the people were struck by how much time was spent in arguments over whether the Supreme Court should even rule in the case.

A ruling from the Supreme Court on both cases is likely to happen by June.