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Same-sex marriage (SSM) & domestic partnerships

More quotations, Washington
overview, King County, lawsuit

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More quotations:

bulletMarriage is: "the most important relation in life [and]... the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress." U.S. Supreme Court, Maynard v. Hill, (1888).
bullet"Although many may hold strong opinions on the subject, the fact is that there are no scientifically valid studies tending to establish a negative impact on the adjustment of children raised by an intact same-sex couple as compared with those raised by an intact opposite-sex couple." Hon. William L. Downing of King County Superior Court, Washington state.


In 1998, the Washington state legislature passed a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It restricts marriage within the state to the union of one man and one woman. The law is, to a degree, redundant, because two Washington state statutes already specified that marriage must be between a man and a woman. 1 The intent of the Act was to specifically deny all same-sex couples the right to marry.

In 2004-MAR, eight gay and lesbian couples who are all in long-term committed relationships filed a lawsuit King County Superior Court in Seattle, seeking permission to marry. Hon. William L. Downing issued his ruling in 2004-AUG. He declared the DOMA law to be unconstitutional.

In 2004-APR, eleven similar gay and lesbian couples filed a lawsuit in Thurston County, also seeking the right to marry. Superior Court Judge for Thurston County, Richard Hicks, also ruled that the DOMA law was unconstitutional.

Both judges left the decision whether to order the state to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples to a higher court.

In 2006-JUL, the state's Supreme Court ruled that the DOMA law is constitutional. Same-sex couples and their children are thus denied access to marriage and protection under law equal to opposite-sex couples.

King County lawsuit  -- Andersen v. Sims:

bullet2004-MAR: King County Executive, Ron Sims was approached by a six same-sex couples who live in the county. They asked that marriage licenses be issued to them. He said that we would not comply, because the licenses would be without legal meaning in Washington state. He did invite the couples to sue the state. Four lesbian and two gay couples filed a lawsuit seeking permission to marry. Two other couples later joined the lawsuit. Two of the plaintiffs are Protestant ministers; one is a Jewish cantor. They contended "...that the challenged [marriage] statutes... 1 serve to deprive them, as members of a suspect class (homosexuals), of a fundamental right (the right to marry) and that, therefore, on both bases, the court should hold those statutes up to the higher constitutional standard." 2 That is, the marriage statutes must pass a more rigorous test in order to be found constitutional. In order to be considered constitutional, the law would then have to satisfy a "compelling state interest" and must be written so that they are "narrowly tailored" towards that end.
bullet2004-AUG-4: Hon. William L. Downing of King County Superior Court in Seattle issued his ruling. He ruled that "The denial to the plaintiffs of the right to marry constitutes a denial of substantive due process." 3 He declared that the state's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This is the first time in history that a court in the U.S. has declared a DOMA act to be unconstitutional.

He quoted a number of sections of the Washington state constitution which have a bearing on this case. All appear to support the concept of recognition of loving, committed same-sex relationships:
bulletA "frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual right and the perpetuity of free government."
bullet"No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations." Article 1, Section 12.
bullet"No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Article 1, Section 3
bullet"Equality of rights and responsibility under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex." Article 31, Section 1. This is popularly known as the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA. 4

Judge Downing drew an analogy between the case before him and a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia which determined that inter-racial, opposite-sex couples had a right to marry in spite of anti-miscegenation laws which were then in place in Virginia and 15 other states. Downing wrote:
bullet"The social issue before the Court is one about which people of the highest intellect, the deepest morality and the broadest public vision maintain divergent opinions, strongly held in good faith and all worthy of great respect." 4
bullet"...the American Psychological Association has now officially endorsed same-sex marriage. 5 In addition to Lawrence [v. Texas], supra, many courts as well as legislatures across the United States, Canada and Western Europe have given new recognition to 'gay rights,' including key developments in the area of same-sex marriage."

He examined a number of traditional reasons that have been suggested to support the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. He found all three lacking in validity:
bullet"Morality requires it."
bullet"Tradition compels it."
bullet"The institution of marriage is threatened."

References used in this essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Washington state statutes governing marriage: R.C.W. 26.04.010 and 26.04.020(1)(c).
  2. The "Complaint to redress the denial of the basic civil right to marry" in the King County case is at: http://news.findlaw.com/ **
  3. "Judge in Seattle rules same-sex unions legal," CNN.com. 2004-AUG-5, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  4. The text of the King County lawsuit, Andersen v. Sims, is at: http://news.findlaw.com/. **
  5. Marilyn Elias, "Psychologists to endorse gay marriage," USA TODAY, 2004-JUL-28, at: http://www.usatoday.com/

** These are PDF files. You may require software to read them. Software can be obtained free from: 

Copyright © 2004 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-SEP-12
Latest update: 2009-JUL-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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