Olympia, WA - In a long-awaited decision, the Washington State Supreme Court today ruled that Washington's law banning gay marriage does not violate the state constitution. The ruling reversed two lower court decisions striking the state statute as unconstitutional.
Today's ruling leaves Massachusetts as the only state whose high court has created a right to gay marriage, though unlike Washington, Massachusetts had no law banning gay marriage.
In its opinion, the court observed, "Although marriage has evolved, it has not included a history and tradition of same-sex marriage in this nation or in Washington State. . . . It cannot be overemphasized that our state constitution provides for a representative democracy and that the people, who have consented to be governed, speak through their elected representatives. When no fundamental right or suspect class exists, the public consensus, as evidenced by legislation adopted after robust debate, must be given great deference."
In his dissent, Justice Bridge complained, "what we have done is permit the religious and moral strains of DOMA to justify the state's intrusion [upon the rights of same-sex partners]." Brian Fahling, Senior Trial Attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (CLP), noted that "unlike the Massachusetts' court's ruling where a right to gay marriage was created, Washington has rejected the ex nihilo creation of gay marriage which rests upon a view of rights which detaches them from nature, locates them in the sovereignty of individual conscience, and then cloaks them with the dignity of law when enough judges can be persuaded to bypass the legislature and impose their own will on the citizens."
"The court is to be applauded for exercising restraint and leaving determinations about life's most fundamental institution in the hands of the people," added Fahling CLP Chief Counsel said: "It's a great day for marriage, for the family, and for America. Nevertheless, we must remain mindful that this battle is far from over, and we must be ready to defend marriage anywhere, anytime, and at all costs."
Three of the nine Supreme Court justices are up for election this year. And it is the same court that in a 7-2 decision placed the parental rights of a homosexual partner who help to raise a child on par with the rights of the child's biological parents.
Fahling said today's decision will favorably impact the case of Leskovar v. Nickels which challenged Seattle Mayor Gregory Nickels' executive order requiring that all City of Seattle Departments recognize same-sex marriages of City employees in the same manner as opposite-sex marriages are recognized. The case, filed by the CLP, was pending on appeal when the Anderson case was filed and then taken up by the Washington Supreme Court.