Where the court agreed and disagreed
Seattle Times staff reporter
The nine members of the Washington State Supreme Court filed six separate concurrences and dissents, reflecting a court splintered by strongly held views:
— Justice Barbara Madsen, writing the lead opinion of a plurality, concluded that the Legislature had the power and interest in defining marriage as between a man and a woman and that the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act had to be upheld. The opinion was co-signed by Justices Gerry Alexander and Charles Johnson.
"There may be 'more just and humane' ways to further the State's interest… but the State has met its burden in demonstrating that DOMA meets the minimum scrutiny required by the constitution," Madsen wrote. "However, given the clear hardship faced by same sex couples evidenced in this lawsuit, the Legislature may want to reexamine the impact of the marriage laws on all citizens of this state."
— Chief Justice Gerry Alexander filed a two-paragraph concurrence, saying that DOMA is constitutional. "I quickly add, though, that there is nothing in the opinion that I have signed which should be read as casting doubt on the right of the Legislature or the people to broaden the marriage act or provide other forms of civil union if that is their will."
— A concurring opinion written by Justice James Johnson and signed by Justice Richard Sanders more vigorously rejected the argument that DOMA discriminates against gay couples and used different legal reasoning to come to the conclusion that the law was constitutional.
"A society mindful of the biologically unique nature of the marital relationship and its special capacity for procreation has ample justification for safeguarding this institution to promote procreation and a stable environment for raising children. Less stable homes equate to higher welfare and other burdens on the state," Johnson wrote.
— Justice Mary Fairhurst's dissenting opinion, co-signed by Justices Tom Chambers, Susan Owens and Bobbe Bridge, found no legitimate reason to defer to the Legislature for an "unconstitutional and unjust law."
"The plurality and concurrence condone blatant discrimination against Washington's gay and lesbian citizens in the name of encouraging procreation, marriage for individuals in relationships that result in children, and the raising of children in homes headed by opposite-sex parents, while ignoring the fact that denying same-sex couples the right to marry has no prospect of furthering any of those interests," Fairhurst wrote.
— Justice Chambers, joined by Owens, wrote a dissent which objected to Madsen's interpretation of the state Constitution's "privileges and immunities" clause, which prohibits laws limiting the rights of specific classes of citizens.
"The proper question is whether marriage is a fundamental right that belongs to each of us by reason of our citizenship. Our founders would have answered that question with a resounding yes!" Chambers wrote.
— Justice Bridge filed her own dissent in which she criticized DOMA for its "religious and moral strains" and argued that the court had the power and obligation to declare the act unconstitutional, just as the U.S. Supreme Court found school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.
"The DOMA ought to be recognized for the discriminatory enactment that it is, and rejected as such," Bridge wrote.
Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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