Supporters of gay rights participated in vigils and rallies held in cities across the country on the eve of the Supreme Court hearing arguments in two same-sex marriage cases.
While about 50 people gathered around the front steps of the Federal Court House in Springfield to cheer and applaud speakers, Charlie Rogers stood like a sentinel on the curb facing oncoming traffic on State Street. He held a hand-painted sign reading “Overturn DOMA”
The Supreme Court has two days of oral arguments about laws concerning same sex marriage. This morning the court took up the case concerning Proposition 8-California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Tomorrow, two hours of oral arguments are scheduled on a case dealing with the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA,which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
It will be the court’s decision in the DOMA case that will have a direct impact in Massachusetts, and the other states where same sex marriages are legally recognized. Beth and Christina Harlow-Harris of West Springfield have been married for just over five years, and have an adopted daughter. Christina said they are deprived federal benefits that other legally married couples can claim.
Cathy Kristofferson of Out Now, one of the organizers of the Springfield vigil, said she is optimistic that DOMA will be found unconstitutional.
The political tide may be turning for gay marriage. Recent public opinion polls show a majority of Americans now support it, with young people overwhelmingly backing same-sex marriage. Theresa Coley-Kouadio of Chicopee said gays should not have to wait for their civil rights to come from the ballot box.
Some legal scholars have described the two cases the Supreme Court will decide as monumentally important. Leora Harpaz , a professor of constitutional law at Western New England University School of Law said the decisions will be eagerly awaited.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have both called on the court to overturn the same-sex marriage ban.
The Supreme Court decisions in the two cases are not expected until June.