According to a poll conducted by Michigan State University, 56 percent of adults in Michigan are in support of gay marriage. Just two years prior, only 48 percent were in support.
During the past decade, the topic of gay rights have turned into an ongoing, heated debate over an individual’s constitutional rights. With a gay-friendly president and increasing support around the country, the Supreme Court justices are deciding on the appropriate time to rule on gay marriage. Whether it’ll be in favor or in opposition is still unknown.
The justices also will have to consider whether to hear an appeal from defenders of California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 voter initiative that limits marriage to only heterosexual couples.
Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont were the select states to legalize gay marriage. During the Nov. 6 presidential election, Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to legalize it through popular vote, which brings the total to nine states.
An obstacle for legally married gay couples is the court’s decision on whether or not they are entitled to equal benefits as heterosexual married couples. From paying more for health care and taxes to being denied Social Security, this means financial strain for many couples.
Another case to be examined is the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 by an overwhelming vote from the House and Senate that was signed by former President Bill Clinton. It defines that marriage, under federal law, is between a man and a woman as well as justifying the exclusion of gays and the benefits that will not be available to them.
When Marlin Burrows, 76, of Hayward, Calif., lost his partner of 57 years this year, he lost their home, income, pets, health insurance and Social Security benefits. He was dropped from his husband’s insurance plan and struggled to survive on his $800 a month pension. He could no longer afford to make payments on their home of 35 years, forcing him to live with a friend and to get rid of his possessions.
“We shared everything and loved only each other for our entire adult lives,” Marrows said in an interview with CNNMoney. “It’s unfair and it is un-American that I should be left this way by our country.”
The court previously has been criticized for its prolonged decision or acting prematurely on constitutional rights, such as declaring bans on interracial marriage as unconstitutional in 1967 after waiting 13 years. Yet in regards to the controversial restriction on abortion in 1973, its fast decision ignited a national feminist movement with the message that women have the right to choose.
In an interview for the Chicago Tribune, Andrew Koppelman, a professor of law and political science at Northwestern University, said he believes the judicial system will take its time before making a decision on the Proposition 8 case that will impact the efforts made to bring equality.
“What do they have to gain by hearing this case?” Koppelman said. “Either they impose same sex marriage on the whole country, which would create a political firestorm, or they say there’s no right to same-sex marriage, in which case they are going to be reversed in 20 years and be badly remembered. They’ll be the villains in the historical narrative. The court is probably reluctant to impose same-sex marriage on the entire country right now. So, this is an excellent time for them to shut up and do nothing.”
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