Washington State's DoMA Gets High Court's Backing

July 26, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Washington state Supreme Court justices have turned aside arguments that the state's Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) is unconstitutional, as some same-sex couples alleged it unfairly impeded their right to wed.

By doing so, justices threw out assertions from 19 same-sex couples who alleged that officials illegally prevented them from the altar because of the marriage law, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. As does its federal counterpart, the Washington law defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. 

But attorneys for the same-sex couples  –  whose case was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Women’s Law  Center and Lambda Legal –  say the Washington marriage statute discriminates against loving partners. Throwing up roadblocks to keep same-sex couples from their wedding vows only makes it more difficult for them to raise children and does not help children in homes with mothers and fathers, the couples argued.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the state and King  County – as well as a group of state lawmakers and religious leaders opposing same-sex marriage – insisted Washington state lawmakers were the only people legally allowed to decide the issue.

From their perspective, lawmakers had a rational reason for limiting marriage to people of the opposite sex. Only those couples are biologically capable of having children, and keeping them together is generally best for those children, the DoMA law backers claimed.

The case was an appeal from two lawsuits, one in King County and one in Thurston County, filed by 19 same-sex couples who sued for the right to wed. The latest decision upholds the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers over Governor Gary Locke’s veto. Superior Court judges in King and Thurston counties struck down the law banning same-sex marriage as unconstitutional in 2004 (See WA State Judge Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage ).

More than 40 states have a law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and about 20 have written that definition into their constitution. Earlier this month,  New York’s highest court ruled that preventing gay couples from marrying did not violate the state constitution – a blow to same-sex couples who had high hopes that the case would go their way (See NY High Court Strikes Down Gay Marriage ).

Wednesday’s Washington ruling is here .