Red Letter Day

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Interesting notes from the Washington State gay marriage decision

It was a 5-4 loss for marriage equality, but after a quick reading of the various opinions, several interesting things stand out.

First, the majority opinion, although disappointing, is much more respectful towards same-sex couples then the arrogant and dismissive decision by the New York supreme court a few weeks ago. Washington's court goes out of its way several times to point out that basically the legislature's arguments for DOMA probably make no sense, but that the court's hands are tied due to the need to defer to the legislative branch. The decision also points out explicitly that the legislature and the people of the state have the ability to change the law, and nothing is legally standing in their way. Finally, the decision does conclude with several pages where the court recognizes the committed nature of same-sex relationships and the hardships gay couples face. The court even goes so far as to state in so many words that they probably would have ruled to require that the benefits of marriage be granted to same-sex couples (i.e. civil unions) but that they did not rule on the issue of benefits due to the explicit requests of the plaintiffs, who were seeking marriage. Sadly, by shooting for the moon (marriage), the plaintiffs perhaps lost the chance to at least achieve orbit (civil unions), so to speak.

The various concurrencies and dissents (they are all linked from here) are fairly insteresting as well. One concurrence (signed by two justices) was an old-fashioned bit of gay-bashing, and sounds like a Family Research Council press release. It is to their credit that the court's majority opinion explicitly rejected the anti-gay animus of this concurrence in their majority opinion.

As is usual in these cases, the most stirring arguments are in the dissents. this one is the best.

One day, gay people in all of America will have the right to marry, a right which will be supported by a majority of their fellow citizens and legislators, and at that time, American will be proud that she has once again moved human rights and dignity forward in human history. Unfortunately, that day hasn't come yet. But it will.


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