LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The gay marriage debate has been called the most significant civil rights case in a generation and six Kentucky couples are among the plaintiffs who have brought the issue to the U. S. Supreme Court.

Advocates of gay marriage will tell you this case is about equality and fundamental rights, while those against it say it's about preserving a sacred institution and states' rights.

The Kentucky couples who brought the case to the Supreme Court describe this case as something bigger than themselves.

Luke Barlowe and Jimmy Meade have been together since meeting in a Louisville bar in 1968. But much of that life was spent in the closet and much of it was painful.

“I woke up one morning -- my bedroom was over the vent -- and I heard [my parents] talking about their queer son. It was just kind of hard to take,” said Barlowe.

The couple had to go to Iowa to get married in 2009 and they join five other couples from Kentucky as plaintiffs challenging the state's gay marriage ban.

They also join plaintiffs from Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee in this multi-state case.

Many of the couples have adopted children although, in Kentucky, same sex couples can't adopt the children together.

“In the event that one of us passes away, the other is left vulnerable because there is no legal connection to the children the other person has adopted,” explained another plaintiff Randy Johnson.

“For some of our clients, end of life decisions has become an issue,” attorney Shannon Fauver said. “They want to be treated the same way when they go to the hospital with their spouse.”

“It's about being treated the same as every other family out there,” Kim Franklin said.

The nine Supreme Court justices will hear arguments for just two and a half hours Tuesday and the entire case has been boiled down to two questions concerning the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which addresses Equal Protection.

Lawyers for both sides will try to answer these two questions:

1) Does the 14th Amendment require a state to license a marriage of two people of the same sex?

2) Does the 14th Amendment require a state to recognize same sex marriages performed out of state?

The argument against it

“A family with a biological father and mother is the best place for a child to grow up,” The Family Foundation's Martin Cothran said. “The social science evidence is almost unanimous on that point. So the question is whether the state can encourage that -- not that exclusively -- but have policies that set up an incentive for the maximum number of children to be raised in the best kind of parenting environment.”

Cothran represents The Kentucky Family Foundation, which has fought to uphold the state's gay marriage ban.

“I seriously do not believe that our children are lacking any love whatsoever,” Johnson countered. “We believe that the most important thing is for the kids to have two loving parents and that they certainly have.”

But that's not the only issue.

The Family Foundation also believes the people of Kentucky should decide the future of gay marriage through the state legislature or by the ballot -- not the federal government.

“It's taking away the right of the state to define it that way and it's increasing the power of the federal government over issues like this,” Cothran said.

The polarizing topic of gay marriage gets even more divisive when you mix in religion.

“[The Bible] makes very clear that God's plan for human sexuality is the plan of a man and woman united in marriage and it's just that foundational and it's actually just that simple,” said Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

But depending on the church you ask, you'll find arguments for and against.

“I'm the first gay man who's in a partnered relationship to be ordained in the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” Third Lutheran Pastor Steven Renner explained.

Pastor Renner was ordained this weekend at Frankfort Avenue's Third Lutheran.

“Gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, questioning, everybody is welcome here and love one another as Christ loves us. So in that regard everyone is welcome here,” Renner said.

But Dr. Mohler worries what happens next.

“Even the logic of those who are pushing this revolution in the courts and in the law and in morality, they're going to find that their own language is pretty hard to stop,” Mohler said. “When they talk about the rights of anyone to get married, that doesn't stop with same sex couples. You've got law professors ready to file suit from those who represent those who want polygamist relationships recognized in the law.”

“You asked me why people use the Bible against gay people, I think it's what, often times, is profitable,” Renner said.

A big case

This case is being compared to the likes of Loving vs. Virginia, during which, in 1967, the Supreme Court struck down laws banning interracial marriage.

“It's a big a big a case that we've had that the Supreme Court is deciding in a generation,” U of L Law Professor Sam Marcosson said. “It's really hard to overstate its importance.”

So what is likely to happen?

Marcosson says The United States vs. Windsor, a high profile case heard before the Supreme Court just two years ago, gives us a clue.

“In Windsor, a five justice majority held that the federal government had no authority to do anything other than treat those relationships the same and those justices haven't gone anywhere,” Marcosson said.

Some believe the case hinges on just one Justice.

“One man is going to decide this issue: Anthony Kennedy who is the swing vote on the court,” said Marcosson.

Recent polls suggest more Americans are in favor of same sex marriage than any other point in history, but for now history waits to be written.

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