BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today on a particularly heated issue: whether or not a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional.
The act, which was signed into law in 1996, defines marriage as being between a man and a women. The plaintiff in this case believes that wording is unconstitutional, and said it violates the equal rights clause of the Fifth Amendment.
This case has enormous implications for Maine, a state where same sex marriage is now legal. Attorney Sarah Newell said that if the Defense of Marriage Act is upheld by the Supreme Court, same sex couples in Maine would be denied the same federal benefits that heterosexual couples receive.
"If the Supreme Court upholds the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that is being questioned here... then the federal laws would define marriage as between a man and a woman," Newell said. "And so a gay couple in Maine whose marriage is recognized under the state law would not be able to take advantage of some of the laws that apply to marriage at the federal level."
Like much of the country, Mainers are torn on whether or not the Defense of Marriage Act should be upheld. Many believe it is time for the Supreme Court to take a stand and recognize what has already been acknowledged by many state governments.
"No ands, ifs or buts. No qualifiers. Simply repeal it. They need to make a clear statement and it's time," said Bangor resident Patti Woolley.
Others believe that the recognition of same sex marriage at the federal level is not so black and white. The Catholic church's official position is that marriage is between a man and a woman, but Father Seamus Griesbach of St. John's church says that mutual respect of one other should always be applied, even if people do not always agree.
"Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, I think the real question is can we as a society treat one another with respect," Father Seamus said. "It needs to be a personal; entering into relationships with people and recognizing that even if we disagree about things, it's still a people. It's still people we're disagreeing with. People who have dignity. You have to always keep that in the forefront of your mind I think."
The Supreme Court will debate the issue, and the court is expected to hand down a ruling in a few months.