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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) & domestic partnerships

Thurston County, Washington lawsuit

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Castle v. State of Washington:

2004-APR: Eleven gay and lesbian couples from across the state of Washington filed a similar but separate lawsuit to the King County Lawsuit. "Plaintiffs include a police officer, a firefighter, a banker, a nurse, a retired judge, a college professor, a business executive, and others. They reside from Seattle to Spokane and from Port Townsend to Hoquiam." One couple has been together for 3.5 years; one for 6 years; the rest range from 11 to 31 years together. 1

All sought simply the right to marry in Washington state. They have also asked that same-sex marriages which have been solemnized elsewhere -- e.g. in Massachusetts or Canada be recognized in the state. Their counsel claims that they have located over 300 rights and responsibilities "legally attached to the status of being civilly married...." which the state gives to every married couple, but denies to all same-sex couples.  2

2004-SEP-9: Superior Court Judge for Thurston County, Richard Hicks, ruled that gays and lesbians are part of a protected, minority class. He also ruled that the state Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denies them the right to marry is unconstitutional. In addition, two sections of the marriage laws which define marriage as between one man and one woman are also unconstitutional. Judge Hicks wrote:

bullet"The clear intent of the Legislature to limit government approved contracts of marriage to opposite-sex couples is in direct conflict with the constitutional intent to not allow a privilege to one class of a community that is not allowed to the entire community." 2
bullet"What fails strict scrutiny here is a government-approved civil contract for one class of the community not given to another class of the community. Democracy means people with different values living together as one people. What can reconcile our differences is the feeling that with these differences we are still one people. This is the democracy of conscience." 3
bulletThat the DOMA law places same-sex families and their children at risk. He wrote: "Same-sex [lesbian] couples can have children through artificial insemination and same-sex [gay and lesbian] couples can adopt children all with government approval. Where is the protection for these children?" 3
bullet"Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek the same personal dignity and liberty to make personal choices as heterosexual persons do." 4

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)/Washington State:

"The court rebuffed arguments that same-sex marriage destabilizes the family, noting that same sex couples have already been found to serve as capable foster and adoptive parents. In his ruling, Judge Hicks pointed out that granting marriage equality to same-sex couples strengthens our community, saying, 'Our fundamental principle is that we share the freedom to live with and respect each other and share the same privileges or immunities. We need each other'." 1

Reactions to the court ruling:

Reactions were as expected:

bulletPeter Nicolas is a University of Washington law professor who teaches a course in sexual-orientation law. He said: "The court is taking a significant step in deciding the issue this way."
bulletPastor Joseph Fuiten, president of Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government opposes SSM. He referred to the judge's ruling as "...an astounding widening of rights for homosexuals." 3,5 He also said: "This is a quantum leap in social change... Even though homosexuality is a condition in which people both enter and leave, the court has determined that they represent a class of people analogous to a race of people." He is apparently referring to bisexuals who sometimes switch between opposite and same-sex relationships, and/or to homosexuals who sometimes decide to remain celibate for periods in their life.
bulletBrenda Bauer who is the lead plaintiff along with her partner, Celia Castle, said: "This has been a life issue for us: being a family and having that recognized."
bulletState Representative Gigi Talcott, a supporter of an amendment to the state constitution to permanently deprive same-sex couples of the right to marry, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the ruling is: "...just so far out of the mainstream thinking. I think it's a classic case of what an activist judge can do." 4
bulletAnother plaintiff, Jeff Kingsbury, said that it is fitting that a state as socially progressive as Washington could carry same-sex marriage forward. "I believe the citizens of our state are ready for this and want it. In a few years, we'll all know at least one same-sex married couple and be wondering what all the fuss was about."
bulletState Senator Val Stevens, (R-Arlington) was a key sponsor of the state's DOMA law. She issued a statement which said, in part: "The Legislature passed DOMA to prevent the erosion of traditional families, acknowledging that marriage is between a man and a woman."
bulletRepresentative Ed Murray (D-Seattle), who is openly gay, said, "The Legislature hurt marriages and families when it passed this [DOMA] law. Politicians always talk about supporting marriage and family. This is the acid test."
bulletAssistant Attorney General William Collins said that it was "interesting that a trial court came to the conclusion" that gays and lesbians are a protected class. He said:
"I don't think those trial-court rulings go up on appeal with any presumption of correctness. The [high court] will be interested in what the trial-court judges say, but they will make their own independent decision about the constitutionality of the law. Ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide if they hear the case, when they will hear the case and how they will hear the case."
bulletKathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, issued a statement which said, in part:
"This is an important victory for fairness and equality. The judge ruled that government must treat same-sex couples the same as other couples and that two consenting adults who wish to enter into the commitment of marriage cannot be denied its benefits simply because they are of the same gender."  4
bulletPaul Lawrence, the plaintiffs' lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that the judge's ruling was:
"... well-grounded in state constitutional-law principles. He makes a very clear finding that the state Constitution requires equal treatment of all citizens and that state marriage laws don't provide equal treatment and are therefore unconstitutional....this is exactly the type of case that the state Supreme Court will take directly on review." -- i.e. it might bypass the State's Court of Appeals.

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. "Judge Rules for Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples Statewide," ACLU-WA, 2004-SEP-04, at: http://www.aclu-wa.org/
  2. Lornet Turnbull, "Gays are a protected class, state judge rules." Seattle Times, 2004-SEP-9, at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/
  3. Michael Foust , "2nd Wash. state judge strikes down same-sex 'marriage' ban," Baptist Press, 2004-SEP-8, at: http://www.bpnews.net/
  4. "Washington judge rules against gay marriage ban," CNN.com Law Center, 2004-SEP-07, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  5. Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government has a web site at: http://www.werg.org/

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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