the state supreme court, should have the last word on
Washington State's same-sex marriage ban, top Republican
legislators say. "We believe that the courts don't
have the right to go in and change law that the
legislature has passed," Rep. Mike Armstrong said Thursday.
The court is considering a closely watched
challenge to the state's 1998 same-sex marriage ban
and could overturn the legislation. But if justices do
void the law, they should leave any new remedies to the
legislature, house and senate GOP leaders said at a
meeting where they unveiled their 2006 legislative
agenda. "If they choose to override what the
legislature does, we think it should come back to the
legislature--to us who represent the citizens of
the state--to act on it again," Armstrong said.
Washington's so-called Defense of Marriage Act,
which defines marriage as being the union of one
man and one woman, passed in 1998 with bipartisan
support after a veto from then-governor Gary Locke. "We
already defined it, and that's the definition we want the
court to honor," said Sen. Mike Hewitt, leader of the
The high court heard arguments about the
constitutionality of the act last March.
Opponents of the marriage ban argued that it
contradicts the constitution's provision against
granting privileges to one group of citizens. They
also said the marriage ban violates the state's Equal
A decision on the case could come at any time.
Possible options for the ruling include:
--Upholding the law, thus barring same-sex
couples from marrying.
--Declaring the law unconstitutional and
granting same-sex couples the same marriage rights as
heterosexuals. Massachusetts is the only state to
afford full marriage rights to same-sex couples.
--Declaring the ban unconstitutional and
sending it back to the legislature for a solution. The
Vermont supreme court took this path, and its
legislature ultimately enacted civil unions.
Should the high court decide Washington's
marriage ban is unconstitutional, "all we're asking is
that they kick it back to the legislature," said house
Republican leader Richard DeBolt. "We just don't want
them to go further and interpret what their decision
means to the law."
But senate majority leader Lisa Brown, a
Democrat from Spokane, said interpreting the law is
the exact purpose of the supreme court. "In our system
of government, the supreme court is supposed to determine
the constitutionality of the laws that we pass," said
Brown, who voted against the marriage ban in 1998. "To
tell the court what is and is not to do--I'm not
sure what the point is."
Jamie Pedersen, an attorney in the case, echoed
those statements. "If the legislators don't like what
the supreme court says, they can, by a two-thirds
majority, propose a constitutional amendment to the
people," said Pedersen, an attorney with the gay advocacy
group Lambda Legal. "That's how our system of
government works. That's part of the checks and balances."
Republican leaders said that they were not
trying to subvert the court. "We totally support and
respect the right of the supreme court to rule on
constitutional issues," said house Republican floor leader
Doug Ericksen. "Just as we have respect for what happens at
the court level, we also want the court to have
respect for what happens at the legislative level."