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October 27, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 43
 
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Washington Supreme Court denies reconsideration in marriage equality case
Washington Supreme Court denies reconsideration in marriage equality case
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

The Washington State Supreme Court on Wednesday, October 25th, denied a petition for reconsideration from the lawyers representing 19 plaintiff same-sex couples who sought the right to marry. The decision may represent the final word on the issue from a legal perspective for at least a decade, according to one legal scholar who spoke with the Seattle Gay News this week.

In a 5-4 decision last July, the court had ruled to uphold the state's 1996 law, which bars same-sex couples from access to marriage. The rules of the Supreme Court dictate that parties have 14 days from the issuance of a decision to petition the court for reconsideration, however, the lawyers had been successful in receiving an extension before filing its motion with the court.

"Regrettably, the court failed to uphold basic fairness. The state confers many benefits on married couples," Kathleen Taylor, Executive Director of the ACLU of Washington. "Same-sex couples who want to make the same commitments should not be denied the rights given to other couples and their families."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington represented 11 couples in Castle v. State. The other eight couples where represented by Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women's Law Center in Anderson v. King County. The two cases where later combined and heard jointly by the nine Supreme Court justices.

The narrow decision last July revealed a diversity of opinion among the justices. "The Legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by children's biological parents," wrote Justice Barbara Madsen on behalf of the majority.

Justice Mary Fairhurst, however, wrote that justices who upheld DOMA "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."

In August 2004, King County have to engage our allies in our advocacy work in telling stories and, also, we need volunteering and campaigning.

"The community is an important constituency, but we are small. Legislators need to know that we will be there for them when they make hard votes, which means becoming an electoral powerhouse in Washington state that will volunteer on campaigns and raise money for campaigns. That needs to start, now!"

Likewise, Taylor said that the ACLU would be gearing up to support organizations pushing for marriage equality and pledged to continue the fight in the courts, when necessary. "Now we are looking at next steps to advance equality," she said. "The ACLU will continue to work with our allies to lobby for laws that protect the common property of LGBT couples, enhance public and private benefits for families, and prevent discrimination. The ACLU will also pursue lawsuits challenging unequal access to benefits, services, or other entitlements for couples of the same sex."

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