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
"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)