Political News

Hagan endorses gay marriage as Supreme Court considers DOMA

Posted March 27, 2013 10:47 a.m. EDT
Updated March 27, 2013 8:47 p.m. EDT

— U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan came out in support of marriage equality Wednesday, saying in a statement that "we shouldn't tell people who they can love or who they can marry.

Hagan said she respects the strong feelings on both sides, but "after much thought and prayer," she came to a personal conclusion that same-sex marriage should be legalized.

Last year, Hagan opposed Amendment One, an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as being between a man and woman only. North Carolina voters, however, approved the measure.

"I was concerned about the negative consequences it could have on North Carolina families and our economy," she said. "No matter what your family looks like, we all want the same thing for our families – happiness, health, prosperity, a bright future for our children and grandchildren."

Hagan's statement came out as the Supreme Court, in the second day of back-to-back gay marriage cases, turned to a constitutional challenge to the law that prevents legally married gay Americans from collecting federal benefits generally available to straight married couples.

A section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act says marriage may only be a relationship between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law, regardless of state laws that allow same-sex marriage.

The DOMA argument follows Tuesday's case over California's ban on same-sex marriage, a case in which the justices indicated they might avoid a major national ruling on whether America's gays and lesbians have a right to marry. Even without a significant ruling, the court appeared headed for a resolution that would mean the resumption of gay and lesbian weddings in California.

Marital status is relevant in more than 1,100 federal laws that include estate taxes, Social Security survivor benefits and health benefits for federal employees. Lawsuits around the country have led four federal district courts and two appeals courts to strike down the law's Section 3, which defines marriage. In 2011, the Obama administration abandoned its defense of the law but continues to enforce it. House Republicans are now defending DOMA in the courts.

Same-sex marriage is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. The states are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington. It also was legal in California for less than five months in 2008.