Washington court rules in favour of gay marriage ban

Troy Espera | July 27, 2006

WASHINGTON — The Washington Supreme Court upheld the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

In a narrow 5�4 decision, Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that the state's marriage law was enacted to "promote procreation and to encourage stable families."

The decision was the latest in a series of significant court rulings favoring gay-marriage opponents. New York's high court dealt gay couples another blow earlier this month when it ruled that a state law limiting marriage to between a man and a woman was constitutional.

In the Washington decision, the court overruled two lower courts that had found the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to opposite-sex couples, violated the state constitution and its Equal Rights Amendment.

Three of the justices in the majority, however, invited the state Legislature to take another look at the gay marriage ban's effect on same-sex couples.

�Given the clear hardship faced by same-sex couples evidenced in this lawsuit, the Legislature may want to re-examine the impact of the marriage laws on all citizens of this state,� wrote Madsen, with Justice Charles Johnson and Chief Justice Gerry Alexander concurring.

The two other justices in the majority, James Johnson and Richard Sanders, agreed with the outcome but more actively opposed gay marriage.

In the decision, Justice James Johnson wrote: "This is a difficult case only if a court disregards the text and history of the state and federal constitutions and laws in order to write new laws for our State's citizens. Courts are not granted such powers under our constitutional system. Our oath requires us to uphold the constitution and laws, not rewrite them."

Nineteen gay and lesbian couples had challenged the constitutionality of the 1998 state law.

Brenda Bauer of Seattle, who sued over the state law along with her longtime partner Celia Castle, told The Associated Press that it was a sad day for her family.

"I believe that our constitution should treat all of its citizens the same, and in this case the court was willing to treat my family differently than other families," Bauer said.

Members of the Bremerton/Kitsap County chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Washington – as well as PFLAG members across the state – expressed deep disappointment with the ruling. The decision, the organization said in a press release issued Wednesday, closes the door for marriage equality in Washington – a key law that would provide fundamental protections to gay and lesbian family members and loved ones.

"While this might seem like a minor thing to some people, it is a vivid example of how the lifelong commitments of our loved ones are treated as second class," said PFLAG member Kathy Reim, in the organization�s media statement. "Today the Washington State Supreme Court effectively shut the door on equality, and we will be looking to the legislature to open that door to all families.�

In Massachusetts, the state that ushered the marriage debate into the public spotlight, MassEquality campaign director Marc Solomon also expressed his disappointment in a media statement.

"Our thoughts are with those couples in Washington who have made a loving commitment to one another and deserve full equal protection under the law,� Solomon said. �We've always known that the path to equality would be marked by victories and setbacks. Today we experienced a setback, but we are confident that equality is a true American value that will eventually prevail." – Issued by Gay Link Content

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