Gay Marriage Part 2: High Court Takes Up DOMA

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For the second time in two days, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could change the government's definition of marriage.

The big question before the court Wednesday was not whether gay marriage should be legal but whether the federal government should recognize those unions and give benefits to same-sex couples.

Justices agreed to hear a challenge against one section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act from a woman named Edie Windsor, who had to pay more than $300,000 in estate taxes after the death of her female partner of 44 years. A heterosexual married couple would not have had to pay the tax.

Is gay marriage a civil right's issue? Maggie Gallagher, fellow at the American Principles Project, talks about this and more, on CBN Newswatch, March 27, following this report.

"It was a marriage that anybody would want, okay, gay or straight," Windsor said.

Marital status matters in more than 1,100 federal laws affecting estate taxes, social security survivor benefits, and health benefits for federal employees. Nine states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing homosexual marriages.

At issue, says American University Law Professor Stephen Vladeck, is the question, "Can the federal government deny to those legally married couples, benefits that would be available to heterosexual couples?"

Although DOMA remains the law of the land, the Obama administration stopped defending it in court two years ago. Currently, its defense is funded by House Republicans.

Meanwhile, from coast to coast, both supporters and opponents of gay marriage are gathering this week to make their strongly held views known. 

Defenders of traditional marriage hold to the Bible's teaching despite an overwhelming drumbeat for homosexual marriage in the mainstream media.

Pastor Jim Garlow, with Skyline Church in San Diego, was in Washington for the hearings. He said he sees the resistance to the biblical portrayal of marriage becoming increasingly strident.

"The Word of God is crystal clear and it doesn't bother people to come against it in a very blatant way," Garlow said. "But I pray for them."

In California, which may not get a completely definitive ruling on the state's marriage law, same sex marriage supporters are encouraged.

"I'm so, so lucky to be alive at this time. I wish that my grandparents could be here to see this," Southern California resident Shannon Cornwell exclaimed at a gathering to celebrate the Supreme Court hearing.

In another part of Southern California, Christians prayed that the justices would make correct decisions on the cases.

"It's very, very important that this court says, 'Enough is enough,'" Pastor Wiley Drake, from Buena Park's First Southern Baptist Church, cautioned. "We will not go against God's rule for marriage."

On Tuesday, the justices heard arguments against California's voter-approved Prop 8 measure that defined marriage as only between a man and a women.

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John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.