Marriage rulings could impact Wisconsin - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Marriage rulings could impact Wisconsin

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW)—U.S. Supreme Court heard the first of two cases on Tuesday, lawyers argued California's ban on same sex marriage, known as Proposition 8. 

Challengers argue the 14th amendment guarantees "equal protection" -- so defining marriage as only between a man and a woman violates their equal rights.

"One of the outcomes would be lower courts were wrong and the California passage of the constitutional amendment doesn't violate any federal constitution principals," Joe Veenstra, Attorney, Johns, Flaherty & Collins said.

That means same sex couples in California will not be able to marry and would tell other states with similar bans there is no constitutional problem limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

If they uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, it will prevent same sex couple from receiving the same benefits other married couples receive.

But if they strike it down same sex couples will receive the same benefits and tax breaks.

"If in both cases if the U.S. Supreme Court says it's unconstitutional to discriminate against same sex couples," Veenstra said.  "Then a lot of states who have passed laws discriminating against same sex couples would have that same constitutional problem."

State laws and constitutional amendments, including Wisconsin's, would be over turned to allow same sex marriages across the country.

"If they made a smaller ruling it would be a political question for each individual state," Veenstra said.

But, the first thing the U.S. Supreme Court will decide, in both cases, is who has a right to bring a case before them.

California found Proposition 8 unconstitutional, so they're not defending the ban; and the Department of Justice said Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional so they're not defending DOMA.

"If the Supreme Court wanted to wiggle its way out of making a hard political decision," Veenstra said. "It could do so by saying the people who asked us to hear this case should have been allowed to ask us to hear these cases."

We won't know the supreme courts decision in both cases, likely, until June.

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