Monday, March 07, 2005

Oh, Yeah, Olympia?

Washington State's Supreme Court hears same-sex-marriage arguments tomorrow. It has all the ingredients pro and con. The decision is up for grabs.

Unlike Massachusetts,here the legislature and governor staked their (opposite) grounds clearly. In 1998, the lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a Defense of Marriage Act and overrode the governor's veto. Since then, two different Superior Court judges have ruled that law unconstitutional. In anticipation of the high court's deliberations, no one has married or even licensed the marriages of same-sex couples there.

In one case, Andersen v. Sims, Judge William Downing rules on August 4, 2004, that the state did not show any compelling interest or reason for the DoMA. His detailed decision answers the now commonplace questions from the con forces. For example:
Some declaim that the institutions of marriage and family are weak these days and, in fact, stand threatened. Any trial court judge who regularly hears divorce, child abuse and domestic violence cases deeply shares this concern. It is not difficult, however, to identify both the causes of the present situation and the primary future threat. They come from inside the institution, not outside of it. Not to be too harsh, but they are a shortage of commitment and an excess of selfishness. Before the Court stand eight couples who credibly represent that they are ready and willing to make the right kind of commitment to partner and family for the right kinds of reasons. All they ask is for the state to make them able.
Note: This link and the following one open Acrobat PDF documents. You need a compatible reader.

On September 7, 2004, in the other case, Castle v. Washington, Judge Richard Hicks rules more narrowly. He wrote, "For the government this is not a moral issue. It is a legal issue. Though these issues are often the same, they are also quite different. The conscience of the community is not the same as the morality of any particular class." He ruled against the DoMA also, writing, "When the government is involved, one part of the community can not be given a privilege that is not given to other members of the community unless the government can demonstrate how that discrimination furthers the benefit of the entire community."

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