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Vermonters watch US Supreme Court same-sex marriage case - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermonters watch US Supreme Court same-sex marriage case

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DUXBURY, Vt. -

Nestled in the hills of Duxbury is the picturesque Moose Meadow Lodge. For Marlene Gutierrez and Gwen Castilla it was the perfect wedding venue.

"We've been dreaming about getting married ever since we first met," Gutierrez said.

Their dream came true Monday, when the Virginia couple was legally married in Vermont. But these newlyweds face an uphill battle.

"It's disappointing because we would like to commence our life together but there will be restriction," Gutierrez said.

Castilla is a foreign national from the Philippines; her new wife is a U.S. citizen. Since the federal government does not legally recognize their marriage, Castilla will be forced to leave the country in six months when her visa expires.

This is one of 1,100 federal marriage benefits withheld from gay couples under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, which bars federal agencies from recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages. But the constitutionality of that federal law is being debated in the country's highest court.

"What the court decides from the case today, will affect literally thousands of Vermonters," said Cheryl Hanna of the Vermont Law School.

Legal expert Hanna says the Supreme Court will have until June to decide if same-sex couples should be entitled to the same marriage rights as straight couples.

Vermont has been instrumental in the debate since the beginning. It was the first state to allow civil unions for same-sex couples 13 years ago and legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. Since then, 941 gay and lesbian Vermonters have gotten married. And 1,788 out-of-staters have come here to tie the knot.

Greg Trulson married Vermont's first same-sex couple. He and his husband, Willie Docto, are also the innkeepers at Moose Meadow.

"The Defense of Marriage Act affects us tremendously," Docto said.

They say DOMA prevents them from jointly filing their taxes, getting equal medical benefits, making end of life choices and having access to one another in hospitals-- challenges they would not face if they were married to women.

"It's just that we're two guys," Trulson said. "But our marriage should be exactly the same as any other couple."

"Same-sex unions serve the best interests of nobody," Craig Bensen said.

Bensen is a longtime opponent of gay marriage. He says if DOMA is repealed there would be a fiscal, political and moral meltdown in the U.S. He calls same-sex marriage a radical change with no proven track record.

"It's not tried, it's not true. And just going there, as a massive social experiment, is not going to be something that's good for the country and for the country's children," Bensen said.

Gutierrez and Castilla disagree. They say their love is real.

"This marriage is really, really important for me," Gutierrez said. "This will be the next stage of my life and hopefully I can keep it forever."

Their fate and where they call home is now in the hands of the nine Supreme Court justices.

During arguments, five justices indicated they may view DOMA as unconstitutional, but for different reasons.

Same-sex marriages are legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Hanna says it's unlikely the Supreme Court will make a ruling with national implications. Instead it will likely be a decision tailored to those states that already allow it.

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