Opinion

The people, not judges, should define marriage

It’s hardly surprising the single-sex marriage battle reached the Evergreen State this month, given that gay activists had made it their business to challenge local laws wherever possible and the King County Superior Court is about as fertile a garden as one could ask for in which to sow the seeds of judicial activism.

What’s most distressing about Judge William Downing’s decision isn’t that he managed to find grounds in the state Constitution to permit homosexual unions — grounds countless other judges apparently missed for more than 100 years until Downing arrived to apply his own brand of logic to the subject.

No, what should bother everyone, regardless of where they stand on the issue, is the possibility this highly controversial matter could be settled by judicial fiat instead of by popular vote.

Like most states, the majority of Washingtonians appear to believe the institution of marriage should be limited to one man and one woman. That was the public’s will expressed in the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act and, until shown otherwise, there’s no reason to believe attitudes have changed.

They very well may, one day, and when that day comes and the matter is put to a vote, gay marriage could be the law of the land. But until then, we cling to the quaint notion that the state Legislature makes laws and judges merely enforce them.

Downing’s ruling — currently on hold pending review by the State Supreme Court — was notably weak on constitutional principles or legal precedents and weighed down with emotions.

Downing ruled the eight couples suing for the right to marry were stable, upstanding people whose commitment to each other and their families could only strengthen the institution of marriage.

“Their lives,” the King County Superior Court judge wrote, “reflect hard work, professional achievement, religious faith and a willingness to stand up for their beliefs. They are law-abiding, taxpaying model citizens. They include exemplary parents, adoptive parents, foster parents and grandparents. They well know what it means to make a commitment and to honor it.”

That’s as it may be, and those would be perfectly valid arguments to consider if Downing were a state senator or representative deciding how to vote on a hypothetical proposal to permit single-sex marriages.

But that’s not Downing’s job. As a judge, it was his responsibility to determine whether single-sex marriage was consistent with the state Constitution. And since the practice was unthinkable in any Washington county when the document was enacted in 1889 and has remained so for 115 years thereafter, it’s a safe bet the state’s founding fathers would be astounded by Downing’s conclusion that they meant it to be legal.

The state can always vote later to amend the Constitution and formally ban gay marriages if the Supreme Court sides with Downing and the plaintiffs. But it would be a shame if that were made necessary by one judge, or a majority on the State Supreme Court, who put their own biases above the stated will of the state’s residents.

Kudos (again) to Villwock

Given the resources available to the Miss Budweiser racing team compared to its Unlimited Hydroplace Racing competitors, Dave Villwock’s sixth Chevrolet Cup title at last weekend’s Seafair wasn’t exactly an upset.

Still, Villwock — a Port Orchard native — is the best of the best when it comes to hydro drivers or Budweiser wouldn’t want him in the first place, and that in itself is reason for South Kitsap to take pride in his enduring domination of one of the region’s signature sporting events.

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