The ability of same-sex U.S. couples to legally marry and whether the federal government must recognize those unions could be decided now that the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear two landmark cases on gay marriage.
One case concerns the constitutionality of a voter referendum banning homosexual marriage in California. The other concerns the constitutionality of a federal law that excludes same-sex couples from receiving government benefits.
Same-sex couples are getting marriage licenses in Washington state, where voters approved gay marriage in November. But their unions are not federally-recognized. That could change, thanks to Edie Windsor, who contested federal taxes she was charged on property she inherited from her wife after 42 years together.
“I look forward to the day when the federal government will recognize the marriages of all Americans. And I am hoping that will happen during my lifetime,” she said.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after lower courts declared the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Critics of the law include U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.
“Same-sex couples live their lives like all marriage couples. They share financial expenses; they raise children together; they care for each other in good times and in bad,” she said.
Congressionally-appointed attorneys will defend the law before the Supreme Court.