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August 06, 2004

Text of King County marriage decision

Tim at security risk" quotes extensively from Judge Downing's opinion Wednesday. We're lucky to have a public servant like this. Some highlights:

There was no deeply rooted tradition of interracial marriage at the time of the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of anti-miscegenation statutes in Loving v. Virginia, supra; yet, the Court analyzed the issue of their constitutionality in terms of the broad right to marry and found that right to have been infringed. There was no deeply rooted tradition of marriage while delinquent in child support payments at the time of the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of statutes prohibiting this in Zablocki v. Redhail...(1978); yet, the Court analyzed the issue of their constitutionality in terms of the broad right to marry and found that right to have been infringed. There was no deeply rooted tradition of inmate marriage at the time of the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of statutes restricting this in Turner v. Safley...(1987); yet, the Court analyzed the issue of their constitutionality in terms of the broad right to marry and found that right to have been infringed....

It is true that marriage has long been defined as the union of one man and one woman. It is equally true that the shape of marriage has drastically changed over the years. It took a very long time for the courts (with legislative bodies sometimes understandably following just a little behind) to break down the traditional stereotypes that relegated women to second class status in society and in the marital relationship....Serving tradition, for the sake of tradition alone, is not a compelling state interest....

Some declaim that the institutions of marriage and family are weak these days and, in fact, stand threatened. Any trial court judge who regularly hears divorce, child abuse and domestic violence cases deeply shares this concern. It is not difficult, however, to identify both the causes of the present situation and the primary future threat. They come from inside the institution, not outside of it. Not to be too harsh, but they are a shortage of commitment and an excess of selfishness. Before the Court stand eight couples who credibly represent that they are ready and willing to make the right kind of commitment to partner and family for the right kinds of reasons. All they ask is for the state to make them able....

Of course the laws never have placed a requirement on marriage that the parties procreate nor do they prohibit from marriage those who are unable or disinclined to procreate....

Unlike the documented impact of children's exposure to domestic violence and substance abuse in the homes of lawfully married heterosexual couples, as to children raised by intact same-sex couples there is no science, only questionable assumptions based on stereotypes. 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.

If there is indeed any outside threat to the institution of marriage, it could well lie in legislative tinkering with the creation of alternative species of quasi-marriage.... Better, perhaps (in terms of simplicity, fairness and social policy) to allow all who are up to taking on the heavy responsibilities of marriage, with its exclusivity and its "till death do us part" commitment, to do so - not lightly, but advisedly....

The privilege of civil marriage and the various privileges legally conferred by that status are not being made equally available to all citizens....[In addition, the] denial to the plaintiffs of the right to marry constitutes a denial of substantive due process.

[T]hese plaintiffs...include exemplary parents, adoptive parents, foster parents and grandparents. They well know what it means to make a commitment and to honor it. There is not one among them that any of us should not be proud to call a friend or neighbor or to sit with at small desks on back-to-school night. There is no worthwhile institution that they would dishonor, much less destroy....The characteristics embodied by these plaintiffs are ones that our society and the institution of marriage need more of, not less.

Posted by jay at August 6, 2004 10:15 AM | TrackBack
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