"There is no worthwhile institution that they would dishonor, much less destroy…"

The recent Superior Court decision in Seattle is passionate and articulate about several reasons why marriage equality just makes sense. For those who might be interested, here are some excerpts from King County Superior Court Judge William L. Downing’s opinion in Andersen v. Sims: (Click here for the full text of the Judge’s opinion.)

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….

The legal question is not whether heterosexual marriage is good for the replenishment of the species through procreation. It is. The precise question is whether barring committed same-sex couples from the benefits of the civil marriage laws somehow serves the interest of encouraging procreation. There is no logical way in which it does so….It rationally serves no state interest to harm certain…children by devaluing the immediate families that they have joined….

It is good for children to be raised in stable families with a father and a mother. There is not the slightest question about this. It is a situation to be encouraged by the state. But, can it be said that fewer children will have this stability because couples consisting of two men or two women are allowed to have a relationship that is state-sanctioned? There is no reasonable explanation for why this would be so. There is no reasonable expectation that, should such a legal result come to pass, married fathers and mothers will abdicate their parental responsibilities or young would-be parents will defect from the ranks of heterosexuals….

On the other hand, when one peers into the future, one circumstance is far more certain to occur. Many, many children are going to be raised in the homes of gay and lesbian partners…. One, then, must try to envision two categories of future children. The first category consists of those whose heterosexual parents will either neglect them or never conceive them because same-sex marriage has been legalized. The second category is those children who will be raised in a home with same-sex adult partners and who would enjoy enhanced fmaily stability and social adjustment if these adults were granted the benefits of civil marriage. The only reasonable conclusion is that the very real second category greatly outnumbers the first theoretical one.

Therefore, the goal of nurturing and providing for the emotional wellbeing of children would be rationally served by allowing same-sex couples to marry; that same goal is impaired by prohibiting such marriages…. 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.

Beautifully spoken words. Your thoughts?

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