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Washington's high
court asked to reconsider anti–gay marriage ruling

Washington's high
court asked to reconsider anti–gay marriage ruling


Gay activists have asked the Washington State supreme court to reconsider its rejection of their challenge to the state's same-sex marriage ban.

Gay and lesbian couples have asked the Washington State supreme court to reconsider its endorsement of Washington's same-sex marriage ban, saying the court's flawed reasoning ignored legal protections against sex discrimination. Such requests to the high court rarely are granted, but attorneys in the case said Tuesday the stakes were too high to let the opportunity pass.

"We felt that we had to use every option available to us to show the justices the logic behind our arguments and how their decision, as it is currently reasoned, falls short," said Nancy Sapiro of the Northwest Women's Law Center, a plaintiffs' attorney.

The high court's 5-4 decision, issued last month, held that state lawmakers were justified in restricting marriage to unions between a man and a woman. That decision overruled decisions by two lower courts, which had found the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Because there were no federal legal issues raised in the case, an appeal beyond the state supreme court is not an option, likely making Tuesday's motion the last stand for advocates for same-sex marriage in the state.

Lawyers for the 19 same-sex couples in the combined marriage case relied on a pair of legal arguments in their motion asking the court to reconsider. The court's finding that the legislature had a "rational basis" for seeking to regulate marriage was flawed, plaintiffs argued. "They couldn't show any reason how it could hurt opposite-sex couples if same-sex couples get married or why same-sex couples' children wouldn't equally benefit if their parents could get married," said Jon Davidson, a lawyer with the gay rights group Lambda Legal.

The ruling also overlooked an aspect of the state constitution's sex discrimination protections, the plaintiffs argued, by not recognizing that the law treats individuals differently based on their gender--a man can marry a woman, but a woman can't do the same, Davidson said.

In their writings, three majority justices in the case invited the state legislature to take another look at the marriage ban's effect on same-sex couples. Davidson acknowledged that the statehouse remains an option for same-sex marriage supporters but said the courts must be available to protect a minority's rights. "We have a court to protect the rights of minorities when the legislature doesn't want to," he said. (AP)

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