The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the first of two cases involving the rights of same-sex couples to marry.
The justices listened to a challenge to California's Proposition 8, a law that voters in the state approved banning same-sex marriage. Crowds of demonstrators gathered outside the court, but the justices hinted they will not use the case to deliver a landmark ruling on same-sex marriages.
This is a very controversial issue that has Americans across the country talking, including those in the Kansas City metro.
Every Friday, couples come to the Jackson County Recorder of Deeds to get married, but those marriage ceremonies don't include same-sex couples. Now many are debating if that should change.
After four years together, Matt Eyman of Kansas City knew he wanted to propose to his fiancé, James. He just didn't know when.
"Once I was sure, I was sure, and it was time to do it," he said.
Eyman also knew that the state of Missouri would not recognize same-sex marriages, so he and James will be traveling to Seattle, WA, to legally wed.
"For both he and I it's more important to have it legal than have everybody there. Eventually the law will catch up," Eyman said.
He's watching the situation at the U.S. Supreme Court closely. The justices will be hearing arguments on two specific issues - California's Prop. 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Eyman and James want to buy a house together, but know there are hurdles.
"Because of the DOMA, they won't recognize any type of same-sex marriage. I'm not able to be on my homes' title, bank loan and that's very frustrating," Eyman said. "We're making sure if something happens to him, it goes to me."
Like supporters of same-sex marriages, those opposed are watching as well.
"It's not an issue of equality. You still have equal rights, employment opportunities - it's a matter of what the definition of marriage is," Pastor Steve Dighton said.
Dighton, founder of Lenexa Baptist Church, said changes to the definition of marriage can lead to many more changes.
"Wouldn't it logically be then, ‘well what about two men and one woman or one man and two women?' And so you can see there's always implications when you break laws," Dighton said.
Both men believe the justices' decisions could change the course of same-sex marriage nationally. The implications of whatever the court decides will reach far beyond the wedding aisle.
KCTV5's Heather Staggers also spoke with a local attorney about what rights and privileges gay and lesbian couples say they are missing compared to married couples.
As an attorney, Daniel Allen of Kansas City sees many civil issues same-sex couples face that legally married couples do not.
"In the event somebody dies, the right to inherent estate, the right to bring a suit, workers' compensation, social security. There are hundreds of both state and federal rights that are denied to same-sex couples due to the fact that they cannot marry," said Allen with Bautista Allen Attorneys at Law.
Allen said one of the cases the Supreme Court will hear, the Defense of Marriage Act, involves two women who lived together for decades and one partner died.
"Because they weren't married she got hit with a tax bill that was over $300,000 more than she would have, had they been lawfully married," he said.
Allen said the same is true for income and federal taxes when it comes to same-sex couples.
"Unless you can get lawfully married, you don't get that lower tax bracket. You pay a higher rate of taxes, that's in its simplest form," he said.
But Allen believes generations will change things. He said while a little over half of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriages, 81 percent of those in favor are 18 to 24 years old.
"Whether it's in the civil rights movement of the 60s and the rights of African Americans, whether it's the right of women to vote, whether it's the right of interracial couples to get married - Loving v. Virginia, a Supreme Court case - the states come along, but traditionally it takes time," Allen said.
Allen said one of the cases he sees a lot is inheriting estates because same-sex couples have difficulties passing along their estates to their partner.
There are several states across the country that have legalized same-sex marriage at some level. Right now, 42 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state that provides some form of protections for gay couples. But, only about 17 percent of Americans live in a state that either has the freedom to marry or honors out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.
Nine states plus Washington, D.C. have the freedom to marry for same sex couples. They are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York , Washington and Vermont.
In 2012, the legislature in New Jersey passed a freedom to marry bill and work is now underway to override the governor's veto.
Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island allow civil union, while California, Oregon, and Nevada offer broad domestic partnership. Wisconsin has more limited domestic partnership.
Missouri voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Then, in 2005, Kansas became the 18th and latest state to pass a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
Tuesday, September 2 2014 8:44 PM EDT2014-09-03 00:44:29 GMT
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