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Expert says Supreme Court cases on same-sex marriage could affect NC

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Over the next two days, the Supreme Court is weighing the meaning of marriage in America.

"These same-sex couples are upset because they are being denied the right to marry only because they're gay," says Jonathan Morris, an ECU political science professor who specializes in American government and politics. "Thus, they feel as though the state of California is actively discriminating against them."

That's the premise of the Supreme Court's first examination of gay rights in 10 years. On Tuesday, the justices heard arguments for and against California's Proposition 8, the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Morris says the court could rule in several ways.

"You could have the Supreme Court by a 5-4 or 6-3 decision decide that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and that all laws like it are unconstitutional," he says. "On the other end of the spectrum, the Supreme Court could say that the Constitution says nothing about marriage. Thus, each state is allowed to do whatever they want."

Or, as several justices hinted after Tuesday's hearing, they could simply dismiss the case.

In light of North Carolina's Amendment One that bans gay marriage in our state, what could all this mean for you?

"Only if the Supreme Court were to decide that all laws in all states that ban gay marriage are unconstitutional would North Carolina feel the affect."

Morris says such a sweeping decision isn't likely. But says Wednesday's hearing on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) could have a major impact here.

"If that were overturned, it would create the possibility that we would be mandated to recognize gay marriages in other states in the state of North Carolina," he says.

DOMA defines marriage to be "only a legal union between one man and one woman" and denies same-sex spouses federal benefits. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will weigh whether it violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

The rulings for both cases aren't expected until late June.

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