Sunday, August 14, 2005

If Washington becomes the second state to legalize same-sex “marriage,” as some think might happen in a few weeks, it will spark lawsuits in other states, said advocates for and against same-sex “marriage.”

The Washington Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit seeking legalization of same-sex “marriage.”The nine justices, who often issue rulings within six months, held a hearing on the case March 8.

A decision to legalize same-sex “marriage” in Washington would have “more dramatic effects on the nation” than a Massachusetts court’s 2003 decision because Washington has no residency requirement for marriage, said Steven O’Ban, a Seattle lawyer defending the state’s marriage laws.

If same-sex “marriage” is legalized by the court, then couples from anywhere in the country could marry in Washington, return home “and face the challenge of having that marriage recognized in their home state,” said Lisa Stone, executive director of the Northwest Women’s Law Center, which is representing Heather Andersen and other homosexual plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Traditional-values groups in Washington say it will be difficult to counteract a court decision that legalizes same-sex “marriage.”

Only lawmakers can amend the constitution, and the Democrat-led Legislature isn’t likely to seek a marriage amendment. Also, petition drives aren’t allowed as they are in other states, said Rick Forcier, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Washington.

But if same-sex “marriage” is legalized, “we are prepared … to make this the major campaign issue” in 2006, Mr. Forcier said. This could include the Washington Supreme Court, where three justices are up for re-election next year.

The Washington lawsuit, which combines two cases, revolves around whether the state’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is constitutional. Both lower court judges said the state was violating homosexual couples’ rights when it refused to issue marriage licenses to them.

“If we win, hands down,” Ms. Stone said, the court will tell the state to issue marriage licenses to the plaintiff couples and any other homosexual couples who want them.

“That is what we want,” she said.

Another possibility is that the Washington high court will rule, similar to Vermont’s high court, that the state is violating homosexual couples’ rights and “kick the issue over to the Legislature for some sort of remedy,” said Seth Kilbourn, director of the Marriage Project for the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates full “marriage” rights across the nation.

Mr. O’Ban, who is representing state lawmakers and traditional-family groups, says the court should uphold the state DOMA and declare that there is no right in the state constitution for same-sex “marriage.”

The state has a right to preserve and protect “the best environment” for procreation and the raising of children, said Mr. O’Ban, who is affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund.

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