Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States heard historic arguments that could result in marriage rights for same-sex couples becoming the law of the land.
The core of the arguments before the High Court is the question of whether an individual state may deny a marriage license to a same-sex couple or refuse to recognize a marriage that took place in a state that does recognize the unions, such as Vermont.
Johnnie McLaughlin of Burlington, Vermont, married Matt Viens last September after about 17 years together. "It was the best day of my life," McLaughlin remembered. "It was so wonderful."
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Vermont recognizes same-sex marriages, but McLaughlin’s home state of Mississippi does not. “It does sting,” McLaughlin said in response to a question from New England Cable News.
McLaughlin said he has wondered what would happen if he were badly injured while visiting family in Mississippi, or fell ill, and needed to be hospitalized.
"I always think about that when I go home and travel," McLaughlin said. "I think, 'What if something happens to me when I’m down there? Is my [Mississippi] family going to have the say, even though I’m married?'"
Regarding the arguments before the Supreme Court, opponents have said people in individual states, not judges in courts, should be the ones who define what marriage is, and even be able to ban same-sex unions if they want to.
"The justices need to go according to the law produced in the Bible," same-sex marriage opponent Christine Weick of Michigan told NBC News.
Advocates insist courts must take a stand for marriage equality to protect same-sex couples from being treated like second-class citizens. The High Court’s decision should come by late-June.
"We’re both going to be anxious to hear how it goes," said Sheryl Coston, who was married at Moose Meadow Lodge in Waterbury, Vermont, last May.
Coston and Betsy Davidson were married in Vermont because they couldn’t marry where they live in Michigan. "We’ve considered ourselves married for many years," Davidson said.
The couple told necn their state’s ban on same-sex marriage makes it hard for them to make certain choices, like end-of-life planning.
"We have talked about that—if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule in favor of same-sex marriage across the country, that we might actually consider moving to some state that does recognize our marriage,” Davidson said.
"And Vermont’s at the top of the list," Coston noted.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, was a leading voice for marriage equality in Vermont when he served in the state legislature. He, too, said he is anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling.
"I hope they make the right decision," Shumlin told WPTZ-TV. "It's a great opportunity for justice."
Johnnie McLaughlin said he is optimistic that one day, the marriage that means so much to him, can be celebrated in
Mississippi and everywhere else. "I hope it passes," he said, smiling.