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Washington State
supreme court upholds same-sex marriage ban

Washington State
supreme court upholds same-sex marriage ban


On a 5-4 vote, the Washington State supreme court upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage, it was revealed Wednesday morning.

On a 5-4 vote, the Washington State supreme court upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage, it was revealed Wednesday morning. The majority ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act restricting marriage to a man and a woman, which the legislature enacted in 1998, does not violate the state's constitution, noting that any change to the law must be made by the legislature. "The two cases before us require us to decide whether the legislature has the power to limit marriage in Washington State to opposite-sex couples," Justice Barbara Madsen wrote for the majority. "The state constitution and controlling case law compel us to answer 'yes,' and we therefore reverse the trial courts. In reaching this conclusion, we have engaged in an exhaustive constitutional inquiry and have deferred to the legislative branch as required by our tripartite form of government. Our decision accords with the substantial weight of authority from courts considering similar constitutional claims." She added: "We see no reason, however, why the legislature or the people acting through the initiative process would be foreclosed from extending the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples in Washington." Indeed, she wrote, alluding to remarks made by dissenting justices that marriage equality will eventually come to pass, "while same-sex marriage may be the law at a future time, it will be because the people declare it to be, not because five members of this court have dictated it." The long-awaited decision in the case--oral arguments were first heard in March 2005--was a crushing blow to the gay rights movement, which weathered a similar ruling by New York's highest court earlier this month as well as a defeat in Georgia's highest court regarding a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage. The case before the supreme court joined two separate marriage-equality cases, one against the state and one against a county; and encompassed 19 plaintiff couples, who argued that the ban violated the constitution's "privileges and immunities" clause mandating that any privilege offered to one group of people, like marriage, be offered to all. Initial reaction to the court's ruling was harsh. "The American family is strengthened when the legal responsibilities of marriage, which protect children, stabilize homes, and secure relationships, are provided equally to all couples," Jo Wyrick, National Stonewall Democrats executive director, said in a statement. "Washington State has an economic and social interest in promoting the stability of the family, and it is stunning that the Washington State supreme court would base its ruling on personal opinion rather than on law." "The decision from Washington State is disappointing," Marc Solomon, campaign director for MassEquality, said in a 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. 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." With the Washington court's decision, Massachusetts remains the only state in the country to offer full marriage rights to its gay and lesbian citizens. (The Advocate)

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