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Supreme Court set to hear same-sex marriage cases

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Updated: 3/25/2013 9:31 am
By Danielle Leigh
NBC News

WASHINGTON -- It's the start of a big week for the Supreme Court as Justices prepare for back to back same sex marriage cases.

Justices will consider whether states can deny same-sex couples the right to marry and whether the Federal Government can refuse to recognize married same sex couples.

More than two dozen people are camped outside the supreme court bundled up under tents and umbrellas -- many have been waiting since Thursday to witness history.

People camping outside the Supreme Court laid out tarps and pulled out their umbrellas ahead of the storm.

They've been waiting for days for a change to watch as Justices consider whether to strike down two laws limiting the rights of same-sex couples. "We're not out to redefine marriage or topple the institution, we're out to be a part of it," says plaintiff Jeff Zarrillo.

Zarrillo and his partner are one of two couples challenging California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage.
"To exclude gay people from the institution of marriage is really to restrict their liberty under the constitution," said plaintiff's attorney Ted Boutrous.

Defenders of proposition 8 say the federal government should leave the definition of marriage up to individual states.

Nine states now allow same-sex marriage along with Washington D.C. thirty-eight others ban it. "The institution of marriage and marriage laws are designed to attach mothers and fathers to each other and to the children that they may create and raise in the best environment," said Austin Nimocks of the Center for Marriage and Family.

The second case challenges the Defense of Marriage Act.

It blocks federal recognition of same sex couples in states where they are allowed to marry.

As a result Edie Windsor of New York had to pay $363,000 in estate-related taxes when her partner died.

"I couldn't believe that they were making a stranger of this person I lived with and loved for 43-something years," said Windsor.

President Obama now calls the law unconstitutional. House republicans are defending DOMA in court.

A new survey by the pew research centers shows the majority of Americans now support gay marriage.

Researchers say it represents one of largest changes in opinion on any policy issue over the past decade.
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