Supreme Court to consider same-sex marriage

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PHOENIX -- As the nation’s high court prepares to consider same-sex marriage, groups on both sides of the highly emotional debate will be watching closely.

Rallies are planned Tuesday from Phoenix to the steps of the Supreme Court, where justices will hear two landmark cases this week.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments for a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in 2008.  Arizona passed a similar measure, one of about 41 states to do so.

On Wednesday, justices consider the Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, preventing married gay couples from receiving federal benefits.

“It’s just a fundamental civil rights issue.  To treat one group of human beings lesser, it’s just not right.” said Phoenix attorney Wendi Sorensen, standing beside her partner Rebecca Wininger, the president of Equality Arizona

“Every morning I wake up and look in the mirror, and I’m living in a country that treats me as a second class citizen. It’s time for that to end,” Wininger said.

Wininger and Sorensen say the issue holds both emotional and legal significance.

“There are 1,100 laws that we do not have the benefit of that men and women do have,” Sorensen said.

Meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriage gathered in downtown Phoenix Monday night to pray to protect marriage, on the eve of arguments.

“For the court to really redefine marriage and shut that voice down of all the people who have voted to protect marriage, that would really be wrong and set a bad precedent,” said Aaron Baer of the Center for Arizona Policy.

Baer said he would like to see the debate over the definition of marriage continue at the state level.  Only nine states currently recognize same-sex marriage.

“Marriage is at the very foundation of our society. It is defined by a man and a woman and is living in so many different ways,’ said Baer.

While arguments are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, the Supreme Court's decision isn’t expected until June.

“I think civil rights for the gay community is just the next watershed moment,” said Rebecca Wininger.

Supporters of same-sex marriage will hold a rally and vigil Tuesday at 6 p.m., beginning at Cesar Chavez Plaza and ending at the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse.