Supreme Court set to argue second gay marriage issue

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March 27, 2013, 5:58 am
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(NECN/NBC News: Tracie Potts) – There are more questions inside the Supreme Court Wednesday and more demonstrations outside as the court looks at whether the federal government can deny benefits to gay couples in states where their marriage is legal.

It's the first time the court's dealt with this issue, and it's likely to spark the same intense debate we saw there Tuesday.

It got pretty heated out here Tuesday. At times, police had to separate demonstrators on both sides.

With more demonstrations expected, the court will take a look at whether the defense of marriage act, which denies federal benefits to gay couples, is constitutional.

"Their marriage is not equal to our marriage, because they cannot create children," said Prop 8 supporter Angela Mantero.

The court's liberal justices questioned that Tuesday:

"... If both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage," said Justice Elena Kagan.

One of the most passionate pleas came from the defendants' son:

"...look forward to the day when we'll be treated equally," said defendant’s son Spencer Perry.

"This is not a democratic or republican issue, conservative or liberal, this is about constitutional rights," said defendant’s attorney Ted Olson.

But the justices argued that California's proposition 8, banning gay marriage, is about children:

“ ....whether that is harmful to the child or not," said Justice Antonin Scalia.

"The voice of those children is important in this case...," said Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Justice Kennedy, the court's swing vote, warned they may be delving into uncharted waters. Justice Samuel Alito agreed.

"You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the internet," asked Justice Alito.

But backers of prop 8 insist the voters have spoken:

"The place for the decision to be made is with the people, not the courts," said defendant’s attorney Charles Cooper.

Even in the 9 states where same-sex marriage is legal, federal benefits are denied.

That's what'll be argued inside and outside the court Wednesday.

Once Wednesday’s arguments are over, we're not expecting a decision on either case until June.

Tags: Supreme Court, gay marriage, DOMA, Defense of Marriage Act, Tracie Potts, NBC news
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