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Auburn-area residents divided on same-sex marriage

Like the court, local voters hold powerful but varying convictions
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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The U.S. Supreme Court is divided after hearing arguments on the issue of same-sex marriage this week, and voters in the foothills are no different.

Transcripts from hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday show the Supreme Court justices had mixed opinions on the issue, which could yield a landmark decision in June.

As the Supreme Court debates the constitutionality of the national Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has restricted federal marriage benefits for same-sex couples since 1996, local spectators weigh the issue with their own consciences.

Grete Skjellerud of Auburn, originally of Norway, said she has been actively following the debate and remains staunchly opposed to DOMA. Having lived in a country that legalized same-sex registered partnerships 20 years ago, she said marriage equality would have no victims.

“I have a very strong opinion. I think same-sex marriage should be legal,” Skjellerud said. “I think that everybody should have a right to marry whomever they want. I don’t think I or anybody else has a right to decide for anybody else.”

Lincoln resident Nancy Francis Dimugno agreed in no uncertain terms, arguing the court should “definitely” strike down DOMA,

“I think it’s to each his own,” she said. “If people want to get married with the same sex, they should. I definitely feel that.”

Even those who haven’t been avidly tracking the debate, such as Melissa Penwell of Foresthill, say they have a personal stake in it because friends or family members will be personally affected by the outcome.

“I’m all for same-sex marriage,” Penwell said. “I think that people of the same sex should be able to get married, and that there shouldn’t be a law against it. It’s a big deal in a lot of people’s lives. It’s definitely really important.”

Kate Patrick, visiting Auburn from Fair Oaks, said she has only “mildly” followed national progress on the issue, but she supports her many gay and lesbian friends, and the idea of a less intrusive government.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s our government’s right to tell people who can and cannot get married. If people want to get married, they should be allowed to. It’s not their business,” she said. “I think they should (declare DOMA unconstitutional), and stop putting energy into things like that and start putting their attention toward what’s going on in Korea and Syria. In today’s day and age … I think they should let people do what they want and focus on the big issues.”

Remaining “neutral” on the marriage issue, Auburn resident Gaylord Barrington made a similar argument about interference from the federal government.

 “I think it’s the state’s right (to decide),” he said. “It’s just my personal belief.”

Others, such as Lisa Curtis of Colfax, support DOMA as an important tent pole for a sliding status quo.

“I’m a believer in the Lord, so I love everyone of different persuasions … but I really believe that God’s word makes it clear about marriage, so when it comes to same-sex marriage, I’m not supportive of it,” she said. “I think our country decidedly has gone away from Biblical values, which is not about rules. It’s about loving … It’s about, ‘God loves you too, and he’s calling us to live life a certain way,’ and that’s who I look to for my moral standards and how I live my life.”

Curtis said she was also unhappy that some of the state’s representatives have spoken out against Proposition 8 even though voters approved it.

“We all do things that aren’t right, but it’s not something of integrity when you pass something like Proposition 8 and they immediately say, ‘That’s too bad, we’re going to marry people in San Francisco.’ They did that,” she said. “I know you get people in office and you have to go along with whatever determinations are made, so I think (DOMA) should be upheld, because it was passed. I know times are changing, but I believe in absolute truth, so that’s where I stand.”