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Supreme Court hears arguments for, against, same-sex marriage

While Massachusetts settled the issue of same-sex marriage more than 10 years ago, becoming the first state in the nation to perform gay marriages in May of 2004, other states have lagged behind. This all may change, however, as the Supreme Court this week heard oral arguments from both opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage.

The justices on the court appeared to be divided this week as they pondered the various arguments introduced before them. The consensus seems to be that the justices are split predictably between liberal and conservative views, with Justice Anthony Kennedy probably being the one to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Kennedy has authored the trio of decisions dealing with gay rights for the court in the past. This time, the justice appeared to be conflicted about the aspects of same-sex marriage. He took issue with those on both sides of the issue.

Three specific aspects seemed to give the justices food for thought:

-- individual rights

-- the right of people to marry the partner of their choice

-- marriage as it has traditionally been defined

Justice Ginsberg brought up that prior to 1982, when the court changed the law that governed the wife's position in a marriage, in some states it was considered that men were the masters over their wives.

If the justices rule in favor of same-sex marriage, there are actually two sides of the coin to be ruled upon: whether all states must allow same-sex marriages to be performed, and whether they must honor same-sex marriages performed in other states. It is conceivable that they could rule that all states must honor marriages performed elsewhere, yet rule against making states allow gay marriages in their jurisdiction.

How the court rules will, by default, affect the way divorces, spousal support, custody and property division will be handled when some of these unions later crumble. Massachusetts may become a model for the other states to follow.

Source: npr.org, "Justices Deeply Divided Over Same-Sex-Marriage Arguments," Nina Totenberg, April. 28, 2015

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