On Tuesday and Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases concerning marriage rights for same-sex couples. In one, United States v. Windsor, the court could determine whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the constitutional rights of same-sex couples. The other, Hollingsworth v. Perry, tackles Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage that voters narrowly passed in 2008.
Yahoo News asked Americans who will be affected by these cases to share their stories and perspectives. Here's a sampling of what they said.
Jacob Flores, right, and his husband, Bruce (Photo courtesy of Jacob Z. Flores)
In 2010, Jacob Z. Flores had two weddings. He and his husband got married first in Provincetown, Mass., and three weeks later they had a ceremony in their hometown of Victoria, Texas.
Their marriage was legal in Massachusetts. But, Flores writes, they held the second ceremony “to demonstrate to our friends and family that we were just like the other married couples they knew, whether it was legal in Texas or not."
“Yet, when both weddings were over, I couldn't help but feel cheated," he continued. "In each other's eyes and in the eyes of our friends, we were husbands, but to the federal government we were not.”
So for Flores, this week’s arguments over same-sex marriage in the nation’s highest court are a reason to be hopeful. He sees the cases on DOMA and Proposition 8 as similar to bans on interracial marriage and notes that the Supreme Court struck down such laws.
“I can't help but hold on to a thread of hope,” Flores writes. “My marriage might be recognized on a federal level soon.”
D.L. Teamor, 39, a pastor in Michigan, says she “cannot and will not judge another person,” but that she feels gay marriage violates the tenets of her faith.
“I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman as illustrated in the Bible, the nucleus of my faith,” Teamor writes. “The laws and lessons contained therein do not change according to modern times or popular outlooks.”
She adds that performing a gay wedding “would completely oppose my Christian beliefs."
Another clergy member, Gerald Watt, has the same worries as Teamor. Watt says he supports civil unions but is opposed to same-sex marriage. “To attempt to join two same sex individuals in the sacrament of marriage would be a sacrilege for me,” Watt writes.
He lives in Illinois, which is debating legalizing gay marriage. He notes that the proposed law allows for clergy to be exempt from performing same-sex weddings, but he fears that provision might not last.
“I can see a time when test cases will eventually force the government to withdraw credentials from clergy like me,” he writes. “I might even be sued for violation of someone's civil rights.”
Kate Coenen has been engaged since July, but she hasn’t made any solid wedding plans. Her fiancée is finishing her degree at the University of Michigan, and they don’t know where they’ll live after graduation.
“Because each state has its own approach to same-sex marriage, we may end up in a state that won't recognize our relationship,” Coenen, 26, writes. Regardless of where they wind up, Coenen says she and her fiancée “plan on building our lives together whether or not we end up living in a state where we can marry legally.”
To her, the potential for broader recognition of gay marriage is more than just a symbol. She, too, wants to take advantage of “tangible benefits that many people in straight couples take for granted.”
The end of DOMA “would give our lives a greater degree of stability and certainty,” she writes.
But no matter how the Supreme Court cases turn out, Coenen, who was a student at the University of Iowa when the state’s Supreme Court legalized gay marriage there in 2009, is optimistic about the prospects for gay marriage.
“I look forward to sharing that future with my wife-to-be,” she writes.
A.R. Treadway lives with her partner of seven years in DeLand, Fla., where they are raising her son from, as she puts it, her “former life.”
She believes “DOMA is a slap in the face”—one with practical implications for her family.
“I want to be able to have the same rights and protections my parents have,” Treadway writes. “When my father passes away, my mother is eligible to collect his benefits [and] make arrangements for his burial. ... If I died tomorrow, my fiancé couldn't make funeral arrangements for me or claim my son as her son, which would mean a nasty court battle between my family and his birth father.”
She also hopes to one day see gay marriage recognized in all 50 states. But, as she awaits the outcome of the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases, she is seeing some advances for LGBT rights in Florida and is “enjoying the little victories.”
Matt Bianco, 36, of Southern Pines, N.C., works at a Christian company and is an elder in his church. He fears that broad legalization of gay marriage could force both institutions to violate their conscience.
“In both cases, they have the right, and possibly the duty, to oppose gay marriage, including the funding of health and benefits coverage for the gay spouse,” Bianco writes.
For him, the root of the problem is the government’s involvement in marriage in the first place. He writes that “the government has usurped authority it does not have” by giving benefits to married couples. And now, with the Supreme Court cases looming, he sees moral conflicts on the horizon over the granting of those benefits.
“This is not simply a matter of gays wanting equal access to marriage; this is a case of the government imposing acceptance of and financial support of gay marriage upon individuals and employers who are morally opposed to gay marriage,” he writes.