Southern Tier reacts to federal same-sex case

By Lorne Fultonberg

March 27, 2013 Updated Apr 5, 2013 at 5:25 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) The United States Supreme Court continued hearing arguments pertaining to same-sex marriage Wednesday, this time taking up the Defense of Marriage Act.

The act, which took effect in 1996, prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages. That means although homosexual couples may wed in some states, including New York, they are unable to collect certain federal benefits.

"There are over a thousand federal laws that utilize the term 'marriage,'" said Michael Dorf, a law professor at Cornell University. "And for all other purposes, federal law just accepts state law as defining marriage, except in the case of same-sex couples."

Edie Windsor, a longtime New York State resident, told the Supreme Court her story today. Legally married to another woman in Canada in 2007, Windsor had to pay taxes on the money she inherited when her spouse passed away -- which would not be the case had she married a man.

"It's very difficult to wrap my head logically around why somebody would feel why I or another person shouldn't be given the same rights that are afforded to you by the Constitution," said Lauren Hering, who is gay and the owner of Merlin's in downtown Binghamton.

Regardless of what happens in court, same-sex couples will still be married in New York. In fact, upholding DOMA won't have any effect on whether homosexual couples can marry. It would simply determine how the word marriage will be defined.

Fifty-three percent of Americans now think gay marriage should be legal, compared to 39 percent who oppose it, according to a CBSNews poll.

Not even President Obama, who for years supported DOMA, would defend the act in court, which meant the Supreme Court had to appoint someone itself.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick says the tide is turning in favor of gay marriage. More people than ever know someone who is gay, he said, which increases tolerance. And people are starting to realize there isn't much of a difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples.

"The first time I married a same-sex couple, you say the same words," he said. "They're nervous, they're excited, they're happy. And after the marriage is finalized, the world keeps spinning."

Hering says she just wants equality.

"I think people get tripped up and think it's about 'we want to be recognized because we're gay,'" Hering said. "We don't want to be recognized because we're gay, we want to be recognized because we're equal. We have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"It's time to evolve and become the nation we tout ourselves to be."

Because the case was brought to the Supreme Court so late in the current session, the court isn't likely to make a decision until the end of June.

Tuesday the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the debate on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8.

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