U.S. Supreme Court hears historic arguments on same-sex marriage

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:

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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court took up historic arguments Tuesday over same-sex marriage, but there is no guarantee of a historic ruling.

Some of the exchanges in the courtroom suggest the justices may punt the case or issue a narrow decision affecting only California.

Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane was in the court room for Tuesday's arguments.

MacFarlane said the justices weren't questioning only whether California's same-sex marriage ban is constitutional, but were questioning whether they should even be hearing this case at all.

Outside the Supreme Court, a wall of people gathered, both in support of California's ban and in support of same-sex marriage.

"There are young people who believe that marriage is between one man and woman," Vivian Pineda told MacFarlane.

"Everyone's optimistic something positive will happen for the movement," said Jaspal Bhatia, of Augusta, who supports same-sex marriage.

Walled off from the hoopla, just seconds after arguments began, justices questioned whether the case should even be heard.

That's in part because the people challenging California's same-sex marriage ban aren't state officials.

"They have no proprietary interest in it. It's the law for them, just as it is for everyone else," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, addressing the court.

One justice said legal same-sex marriage is newer than cellphones and the Internet, and perhaps the court should wait longer to rule.

"When did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage?" Justice Antonin Scalia asked.

The attorney defending California's ban, Charles Cooper, said gay marriage would hurt the institution.

"Redefining marriage will have real-world consequences. And it is impossible for anyone to foresee the future accurately," Cooper said.

"This is a measure that walls off the institution of marriage, which is not society's right," said attorney Ted Olson, arguing that the California ban should be overturned.

MacFarlane said arguments ran nearly twice as long as expected -- perhaps a sign the Supreme Court recognizes the significance of this case.

Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over the federal ban on some financial benefits afforded to same-sex married couples.

Rulings on the same-sex marriage cases are expected by June.