PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- As the U.S. Supreme Court listened to arguments characterized as some of the most important of this generation , supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage weighed in on the contentious issue.
Tony Plakas, a Lake Worth resident and president of Compass, a gay and lesbian community center, said the significance of the moment was as much about the arguments before the court as it was about a national dialogue about marriage equality.
"The fact that we're having these conversations openly is probably the most important step we're making in the moment," Plakas told WPTV NewsChannel 5. "The highest court in the land is now going to be talking about something that ten years ago was pretty much in the shadows."
In 2011, Plakas married Jamie Foreman, his partner of 16 years, in Massachusetts.
"For us, it really just became the difference between trying to convey something very simple. And, that is, he's not my roommate. He's not my partner. He's my spouse," Plakas said. "We're not going to stop people from living together or buying homes together or having children or adopting those children. So, what is the true purpose of denying people marriage rights?"
At the center of the debate over the issue is the intersection of faith, tradition and a movement for change.
"Ever since the beginning of time, marriage has been between one man and one woman," said Virginia Brooks of the Palm Beach Faith & Freedom Coalition. "Children need a mother and they need a father."
Brooks said she would like to see every state define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
"I strongly believe that marriage between a man and a woman is very important for society," Brooks said. "I don't think this would be the way the world would go. I think we would see the denigration and eventual collapse of a society."
Timothy Gilbert, a professor at Northwood University, said some opponents of same-sex marriage worried of the precedent a Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage could set.
"There are many organizations, Christian organizations and other organizations, that are looking at this and saying by redefining what the American family unit is you are opening up the door for lots of other variations to defining what a family unit is," Gilbert said. "I think there clearly seems to be a shift in more approval of gay marriage and gay relationships, um, being more open about it. And, I think that is indicative of, perhaps, the values of the times."
Some recent polls suggested attitudes on same-sex marriage had shifted and more people in the United States were in support of it .
On Tuesday, a recording of the arguments before the Supreme Court was released to the public.