LA CROSSE, Wis. - Depending on how the Supreme Court rules on a case it heard Tuesday, the days of same-sex marriage bans on the state level could come to an end.
The nation's highest court heard arguments Tuesday morning 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 approved by voters in that state banning same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage was banned by an amendment to the state constitution in Wisconsin. Gay and lesbian couples in the state can register as domestic partners, with some limited benefits like hospital visitation.
Some of the arguments that come up in Religious Studies Assistant Professor Michael Lopez-Kaley's classes at Viterbo University are the same ones coming up before the Supreme Court.19480774
"We have students who will reason from a legal perspective that, you know, ‘This seems to be a right. Why isn't it a right?'" said Lopez-Kaley. "And then we have other students who will argue from the perspective that the tradition not only of the church, but it appears the tradition of most cultures, is that marriage is between a man and a woman."
It's a broader debate in his classroom that stems from Catholic teachings.
"The Catholic church believes and has always believed that marriage is between a man and a woman and it is directed toward procreation," said Lopez-Kaley.
Cindy Killion is the board president of the LGBT Resource Center for the 7 Rivers Region and she said times have changed.
"It is about more than that. Being acknowledged and recognized as having the same civil rights as everyone else," said Killion.
When she and her partner had a commitment ceremony in 1998, she told the owner of the venue it was a family reunion.
Fifteen years later, they still can't actually get married in Wisconsin.
"Beth and I could go to Iowa and get married, but it's not recognized in this state," said Killion.
In her eyes, the best-case scenario would be a broad decision from the Supreme Court that would rule banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause.
She won't get an answer until June, but compared with the 16 years she and her partner have been together, she said three months doesn't seem so long.
Wednesday's case in front of the Supreme Court involves a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex spouses.
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