Federal Marriage Definition on the Ropes

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WASHINGTON -- While polls show shifting public perceptions on same-sex marriage, they don't show the widening cultural divide between opposing sides.

Now, some voters are looking to the courts to settle the debate -- while others are waiting to deliver their own response at the ballot box in November.

From statehouses to the White House, it seems everyone is trying to nail down their position on same-sex marriage.

The issue has especially gained momentum after President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage.

"It's important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think that same-sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said earlier in May, switching his previous belief that gay couples should only be allowed "strong civil unions."

But, there is a federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And there have been several challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Last year, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court.

In response, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appointed attorneys to argue those cases on behalf of the House's Bipartistan Legal Advisory Group.

Aubrey Sarvis leads the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gays in the military.

"If he [Boehner] feels so strongly, ... he should take a vote of the full House," Sarvis told CBN News.

Sarvis' group filed a suit challenging DOMA's constitutionality because the proclamation prevents same-sex spouses from receiving military benefits. He believes Boehner's legal efforts to intervene will be overruled.

"This challenge is reserved to the executive branch of government," he explained. "It's not reserved to the legislative branch. So the speaker is losing here on two grounds."

Several other challenges to DOMA are working their way through the courts and likely will end up at the Supreme Court.

Both sides of the debate recognize now is the time to mount the fight.

"I call upon every believer, every Christian across the nation to take the biblical stand for marriage," said Anne Gimenez, co-founder of Rock Church International in Virginia Beach, Va.

Christian leaders like Gimenez say President Obama's support of same-sex marriage and efforts by Senate Democrats to repeal DOMA are evidence of the political war against traditional marriage.

The gay marriage debate could cost Obama and his party key votes from loyal black and Latino communities.

"They are very concerned. It could cost him the election," said Fernando Cabrera, a Democrat serving on the New York City Council.

He added that the president and other Democrats need to understand family is at the very core of Latino culture, not political identity.

"The idea of a father and a mother -- mami, papi -- the whole idea of the family, I mean that is the number one priority of Latino families," Cabrera said.

As the debate continues, DOMA is facing blow after blow.

Thursday, a federal appeals court agreed with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, ruling that DOMA unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples.

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CBN News
John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.