Chris Sgro and his husband Ryan Butler were one of the first gay couples in North Carolina to say their “I do’s” after the same-sex marriage ban was struck down six months ago.
Though the two have been together since 2006, when they had a wedding ceremony in Montreal, their new legal status brings eligibility for the same benefits afforded to other married couples — such as sharing in the estate of the other, the possibility to file taxes jointly and take part in certain employment programs from which they might have been excluded.
Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, a gay rights advocacy organization, listened with interest to some of the arguments presented on Tuesday as the U.S. Supreme Court took up cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee and the question of whether the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.
Many have reported that questions from the justices seem to imply a court deeply divided along the usual partisan lines with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy expected to be the deciding vote.
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Sgro said he heard from lawyers not to read too much into specific questions posed during the Tuesday arguments, that justices might be seeking information to provide fuller legal responses once they issue their ruling.
If the country’s highest court rules against same-sex marriage, Sgro said it would not have an immediate impact on North Carolina.
When two U.S. District Court judges issued rulings in October that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages and opened the door for legalized marriage between gay and lesbian couples, they were responding to a U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
None of the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court is from the federal circuit that includes North Carolina.
“Today, we represent the majority of North Carolinians who stand united with loving, committed same-sex couples across these four states and the entire country to say once and for all that the time for a national resolution on the freedom to marry is now,” Sgro said in a statement, pointing out that 37 states plus the District of Columbia have gay marriage. “The case for the freedom to marry has never been more clear, and we’ll continue to make it both inside and outside of the Supreme Court until love has finally won in all of the places we call home.“