Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in Washington State, according to a brief filed by Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women's Law Center with the state supreme court on Wednesday. The brief asks the state's high court to uphold a ruling earlier this year that said the state's prohibition on same-sex couples marrying is a violation of the Washington constitution. "Our clients pay all the same taxes as their neighbors and coworkers, and they deserve all the same legal protections," said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel in Lambda Legal's Western regional office and one of the lead attorneys in the case. "As long as gay couples cannot marry, they are not being treated equally under the law. We believe that the Washington supreme court will look closely at the important issues this case raises and come to the same conclusion the lower court reached,"
In a historic ruling on August 4, King County superior court judge William Downing said that the state constitution guarantees basic rights to lesbian and gay people and that those rights are violated by a state law prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. The ruling said the state constitution requires same-sex couples to have equal access to marriage and that the couples represented by Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women's Law Center must be given marriage licenses. One month later, a court in Thurston County ruled similarly.
Both decisions were expedited to the Washington State supreme court, which will hear arguments on March 8.
On Monday, Lambda Legal joined with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union in filing a reply brief with the San Francisco County superior court in the California marriage equality lawsuit, Woo v. Lockyer. They were responding to a brief filed by Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer defending California's refusal to permit same-sex couples to marry. Lockyer argued that California does not have to allow same-sex couples to marry because the state has provided such couples the option of domestic partnerships. Lockyer "argues that, for same-sex couples, a status of less than full equality, in the form of domestic partnerships, is good enough," the brief stated. "Even after AB205 goes into effect and we are given more rights and protections, we are still excluded from the right to marry and as a result are treated as second-class citizens," explained Art Adams, one of the petitioners in the case.
Superior court judge Richard A. Kramer will hear oral arguments in the case on December 22.