D.C.

Supreme Court hears arguments on Defense of Marriage Act

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(AP/ABC7) In a major gay rights case, the Supreme Court indicated Wednesday it could strike down the law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of federal benefits that go to other married people.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the decisive vote in close cases, joined the four more liberal justices in raising questions about a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that is being challenged at the court.

Kennedy said the law appears to intrude on the power of states that have chosen to recognize same-sex marriages. Other justices said the law creates what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called two classes of marriage, full and "skim-milk marriage."

The federal law affects a range of benefits available to married couples, including tax breaks, survivor benefits and health insurance for spouses of federal employees.

It still is possible the court could dismiss the case for procedural reasons, though that prospect seemed less likely than it did in Tuesday's argument over gay marriage in California.

But those affected by DOMA are pushing for the Supreme Court to do what they say is the right thing.

Leslie Arsenault was legally married five years ago in Massachusetts.

“Are we half married? Are our children half children? What is this? We're either married or we're not,” Arsenault says.

Heather Trout and Andrea Martens were married in Massachusetts in 2009 but live in Fauquier County in Virginia - one of 41 states that does not allow gay marriage.

“It's hard to have people that don't know me deciding I'm not equal and not worthy of the same rights they have,” says Martens says.

Unlike Tuesday, when thousands protested on the National Mall against same-sex marriage, supporters of marriage between a man and a woman were hard to find outside the court.

But Randy Dusek, in from Chicago touring the capitol with his family, has a firm opinion on the debate across the street.

"Marriage itself, should be between a man and a woman. I don't think there's debate on that to be honest with you,” Dusek says.

 

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