The debate over same-sex marriage in the United States, its legality and the rights for gay couples has been ramped up with the highest court in the country getting involved for the first time.
Thirty-one of the 50 states have banned same sex union including California where four years ago voters approved what is widely known as Proposition 8.
The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the ban in California and a separate dispute about federal benefits for legally married gay couples.
“Whatever the outcome, it’s a very exciting day to have the court looking at our families and rights under the law and our equal dignity and worth,” said Tara Borell a pro-gay marriage lawyer.
Despite protests public opinion is seen to be shifting. In May President Obama became the first U.S president to say he believed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. But Randy Thomasson from an anti-gay marriage organisation, SaveCalifornia.com says he expects the court to uphold Proposition 8.
“At the U.S. Supreme Court, I expect four or five justices to uphold Proposition 8. Why? Because the Constitution of the United States doesn’t have marriage in it, and the Tenth Amendment says: what’s not in the federal powers belongs to the states,” he said.
It’s expected the judges decisions on whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexual couples and if they are entitled to the same range of federal benefits will be known at the end of June.