Area attorney weighs in on same sex marriage oral arguments

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Supreme Court heard a historic argument on a challenge to state laws that limit marriage to heterosexual couples Tuesday morning.

At issue was California's Proposition 8, a state amendment to the constitution approved by voters in 2008 that limits marriage to one-man, one-woman couples.

Plaintiffs challenging the law were represented by former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, who argued that Prop 8 was enacted to stigmatize and harm gays and lesbians, not to serve a rational purpose.

The attorney arguing in support of Prop 8 said the definition of marriage resides with the people, not with judges.

On Tuesday during oral arguments some justices hinted the petition didn’t have standing, meaning is there reason for them to hear the case?

However, Johns, Flaherty and Collins attorney Joe Veenstra said people shouldn’t read too much into oral arguments.

“It’s sort of like justices thinking out loud, and just because there are a lot of questions about one subject doesn’t mean that they’ve decided one way or another,” said Veenstra.

Veenstra said the Supreme Court doesn’t have to hear every case, even if it’s fully briefed.

“That rarely happens, but it happens sometimes and they can certainly do that,” said Veenstra.

If the Supreme Court decides the case doesn’t have standing, then the lower court ruling will stand.

Plus, same sex marriage would be recognized in California.

“However, the Supreme Court ruling would have no broad implications for other states,” said Veenstra.

Veenstra said it could also possibly impact other states in california’s circuit.

However, if the Supreme Court decides the case has standing it could have a broader impact.

“If the court says the petitioners have standing, and the court decides to issue a broad ruling about constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage and says that those types of amendments violate equal protection, that could have an impact in a state like Wisconsin,” said Veenstra.

The court is expected to release its ruling in June.

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