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A first: Wash. judge strikes down DOMA

SEATTLE (BP)–A Washington Superior Court has become the first state court to overrule a state defense of marriage act.

Although the court has declared the state’s Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, no marriage licenses can be issued to same-sex couples until the Washington Supreme Court reviews the ruling.

King County Superior Court Judge William Downing, in a decision handed down Aug. 4, cited the rationale of state Supreme Court rulings in Massachusetts and Vermont, writing, “The Court concludes that the exclusion of same-sex partners from civil marriage and the privileges attendant thereto is not rationally related to any legitimate or compelling state interest and is certainly not narrowly tailored toward such an interest.”

Same-sex “marriage” has been legal in Massachusetts since May, and Vermont has approved civil unions between persons of the same sex.

Downing said the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and was passed in Washington in 1998, violates homosexuals’ constitutional rights to equality.

Six couples filed the lawsuit against the DOMA in March after they were denied marriage licenses in King County. Two other couples later joined the lawsuit, which was handled by Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women’s Law Center. A second lawsuit was filed in April by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 11 same-sex couples.

Glen Lavy, senior counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based pro-family legal group involved in the Washington case, told Baptist Press the ruling should answer questions about why a defense of marriage act is not enough and a Federal Marriage Amendment is needed.

Lavy also said the opinion was “obviously written for the media” and no court, including the U.S. Supreme Court, that has taken an objective look at the legal issues has decided that same-sex couples can “marry.”

“Even the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court understood it had to redefine marriage in order to allow same-sex couples to marry,” Lavy said. “We are hopeful the Washington Supreme Court won’t do something as radical as Massachusetts did.”

Same-sex “marriage” advocates praised Downing’s decision and saw it as a notable success in their quest to have homosexuality accepted as a legitimate lifestyle.

“This is a huge victory and a historic day,” Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, said in a news release Aug. 4. “The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, we are not being treated equally under the law. Same-sex couples need the protections and security marriage provides, and this ruling says we’re entitled to get them the same way straight couples do.”

But Lavy said it is not “inevitable” that same-sex couples will be given the right to marry, as Downing said. The passage by an overwhelming majority of a constitutional amendment against same-sex “marriage” in Missouri Aug. 3 is proof, Lavy said.

“They don’t seem to understand this is an important issue to people,” Lavy said of same-sex “marriage” advocates. “People care about marriage, and mainstream America doesn’t want to see marriage destroyed by changing the foundational institution of our society.”

In his ruling, Downing mentioned three popular reasons opponents of same-sex “marriage” give for being against it, and then he countered those reasons. First, he said some claim morality requires a ban of same-sex “marriage.”

“… Americans have differing views as to what morality requires in the definition of marriage,” he wrote, according to The Seattle Times. “It is not for our secular government to choose between religions and take moral or religious sides in such a debate.”

A second reason opponents give is “tradition compels it,” he said, countering with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s opinion that “it is circular reasoning, not analysis, to maintain that marriage must remain a heterosexual institution because that is what it historically has been.”

And a third reason, Downing said, is “the institution of marriage is threatened.” The judge said threats to marriage — notably a shortage of commitment and an excess of selfishness — come from inside the institution, not outside it, according to The Times.

Washington is among 38 states with laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

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