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Washington State Passes First Hurdle Towards Legal Gay Marriage

BREAKING NEWS! Today, Aug 4, 2004, Wa State's Superior Court just found the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) to be unconstitutional. In our first step towards legalized same sex marriage in Wa state, the case is stayed to be reviewed by Wa State Supreme Court...

Washington State Passes First Hurdle Towards Legal Gay Marriage
By Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com)

On August 4, 2004, the King County Superior Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in Washington state. The case now has been stayed for review by the Washington state Supreme Court before marriage licenses will be issued. But the first hurdle has been passed. Although the ruling has groups such as "Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government" up in arms, dredging up laws banning same sex marriage from the 1970's as precedent, and vowing to appeal the court's decision, most feel confident that the issue will make it to Washington's Supreme Court. Seattle is more gay/bi/transgender-positive than many cities, and this issue will receive staunch support from Seattle as it approaches the Supreme Court bench. The nation will also be watching this case, since so little legal precedent exists in this area, that each one of these cases will matter to the others.

After several states began pushing for legalized same sex marriages in the 1990's, and some states compromised with civil unions, such as Vermont, a backlash of Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMA's) began to infect state legislatures beginning in about 1995. By 2004, 33 states now have DOMA laws, and 5 states have passed ballot initiatives on the matter. Washington was one of those swept up by DOMA laws, enacting said laws in 1998. But today, in 2004, the Washington Superior Court has found those laws to be unconstitutional. It will be interesting to see if the DOMA laws will begin to be overturned, nationally, in a domino effect from all this.

In a controversial ruling, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing cited Supreme Court cases from Vermont and Massachusetts. He said that he could not find any compelling state interest in excluding same sex partners from civil marriage. The judge did a good job at refuting past sentiments for banning same sex marriages. He argued that it is not the court's place to enforce one moral code, as Americans have differing moral codes, and thus he did not feel it was the court's place to be the morality police. He also did not give the argument that it has always been this way any creed. He said that was circular logic, not analysis. The judge made a very bold remark saying that the institution of marriage is threatened from within the institution, not from outside it, noting infidelity and selfishness as threats to marriage, not same sex unions.

Same sex couples have been able to get married since May in Mass. It will be a while until that will be happening in Washington State, but we are slowly getting there. The case now heading to the Supreme Court, will be joined by another law suit filed in April in Washington state on behalf of more same sex couples charging their rights have been violated. As right-wing organizations fight their losing battles, spending more and more money trying to stop the inevitable, I see their fears emerging. They are literally scared the only people left in solid marriages will be gay couples, if allowed to marry. Since so many Christian Republicans, themselves proponents of marriage, are divorced, and so few heterosexual couples are bothering to get married nowadays, the institution of marriage *is* in trouble. It needs new blood to stay alive, yes. It would be truly bizarre if in a few decades marriage was a primarily gay civil institution, one that few heterosexual couples engaged in.

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