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Supreme Court: Both sides in gay marriage debate voice optimism

The Supreme Court's decision to take up appeals over DOMA and California's Prop. 8 ban on gay marriage elicited positive reactions from advocates on both sides of the contentious issue.

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“We believe it is a strong signal that the court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8,” Mr. Eastman said.

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“Had the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts’ decisions invalidating Proposition 8, it could simply have declined to grant … the case,” Eastman said. “It’s a strong signal that the justices are concerned with the rogue rulings that have come out of San Francisco.”

Eastman added that the Prop. 8 appeals court decision was written by Judge Stephen Reinhart. “It’s worth noting that Judge Reinhart is the most overruled judge in America. I think this case will add to his record.”

Others disagreed.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said the high court action opens the way for a civil rights breakthrough for same-sex spouses.

“Gay and lesbian couples in California – and indeed all over this country – now look to the Supreme Court to affirm that the Constitution does not permit states to strip something as important as the freedom to marry away from one group of Americans,” he said.

Mr. Wolfson urged the justices to move quickly to affirm the 10 federal court judges who have ruled in recent years that DOMA is unconstitutional.

“When it comes to the whole federal safety net that accompanies marriage – access to Social Security survivorship, health coverage, family leave, fair tax treatment, family immigration, and over 1,000 other protections and responsibilities – couples who are legally married in the states should be treated by the federal government as what they are: married,” Wolfson said.

Others viewed the high court’s task in broader terms.

“Today, the Supreme Court has put itself on the path of deciding the most contentious civil rights issue of our day,” said David Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“By taking both cases, the court is boldly asserting its role in same-sex marriage,” he said.

Professor Cohen said the justices have a choice to either follow the example of prior courts that have ruled to expand civil rights or those that ruled in ways that contracted civil rights. Given shifting public opinion in support of gay rights and same-sex marriage, the professor says it is unlikely that the court will rule against a broader conception of marriage.

Jim Campbell, a lawyer with the conservative group, Alliance Defending Freedom, stressed that Americans have a right to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. He said the institution forms a “fundamental building block of civilization.”

“Marriage between a man and a woman is a universal good that diverse cultures and faiths have honored throughout the history of Western civilization,” he said. “Marriage expresses the truth that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life.”

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