Should the Supreme Court decide same-sex marriage?

Although the Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on the question of whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, some opponents of same-sex marriage argue it's not an issue for the justices to decide.

"I think it does a disservice to both sides if the court weighs in on public policy like this," Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "The courts are decided to interpret the Constitution and the constitutionality of laws, not create public policy. When they do that, they create division and they erect barriers to reaching consensus on public policy like this."

Perkins said there are more than just marriage laws at stake. "It's about fundamentally altering the culture," he said.

But for supporters of same-sex marriage, it is a reflection of public opinion.

"The courts like the country have come to understand that the command of the Constitution does apply to gay people, like other Americans," said Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, in a separate interview on "Face the Nation."

He said that Perkins is an "outlier" on the issue of same-sex marriage.

"What's to be celebrated here is that the vast majority of Americans have opened their hearts and changed their minds and moved forward to embrace the freedom to marry. And the courts are following where that public opinion has gone," Wolfson said. Asked about people who sincerely oppose same-sex marriage, Wolfson said he is "confident" they will ultimately come to believe that people only benefit when same-sex couples are allowed to marry.

Perkins disputes the idea that there is an overwhelming trend in favor of same-sex marriage now that it is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. In the vast majority of those states, he said, it has been "imposed" by the courts rather than voted on by people.

"In our system of government, the courts are not the final say on issues," he said. He argued in favor of letting states decide whether to change their marriage laws, and warned that the court weighing in will only "supercharge" the issue. He likened it to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Wolfson said that his group is prepared to keep pressing the issue even if the court does not rule in favor of gay couples who want the Supreme Court to legalize marriage everywhere.

"We will build on the progress we've made. We will continue engaging our fellow Americans. We will continue the strategy of winning more states and winning more hearts and minds," he said. "And we'll go back before, if necessary, another set of justices. But I'm very, very hopeful that this set of justices will see what all these other judges, and what the majority of Americans have seen. It's time to end the exclusion for marriage. It's time for the freedom to marry."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.