Opinion

Our constitution supports Defense of Marriage Act

Assuming they intended to decide the case as they swore an oath to — purely on the merits of its constitutionality — Washington’s Supreme Court justices could have dispensed with this week’s challenge to the state’s Defense of Marriage Act with little more than a wave of their hands.

Instead, one gets the unsettling feeling the real reason the justices plan to deliberate for several months is because it may take that long to concoct the tortured language by which they intend to impose their personal agendas on Washington state without regard for either the will of the people or the laws that guide them.

By all accounts, the current controversy over same-sex marriage in Washington boils down to how one interprets the following passage from the state’s constitution: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen ... privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.”

Obviously the clause was adopted to prevent the state from imposing laws that extend to any group special privileges or immunities that can’t be enjoyed by everyone. And just as obviously, the Defense of Marriage Act does nothing of the kind.

The act, passed into law with the overwhelming support of the state’s residents in 1998, simply defines marriage as the legal, state-sanctioned union of one man and one woman. Nothing in the wording or application of the act extends any unique “privileges or immunities” to anyone.

Under the law, everyone in Washington has exactly the same right — to marry someone of the opposite sex. No more and no less.

Same-sex marriage advocates say that discriminates against them because it denies them the ability to marry whomever they please, but the simple fact is that no one has such a right. If they did, by what legal reasoning could a marriage license be denied in the case of, for example, an incestuous or polygamous union?

According to Linda Henderson, president of the board of OUTKITSAP, which represents the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual communities of Kitsap County, “We live in a democracy, and a democracy is about all citizens negotiating rights and responsibilities.”

If that’s the case, why were she and other supporters of same-sex marriage in Olympia last week urging the Supreme Court to overturn the emphatic will of the majority of the state’s voters as expressed by their democratically elected leaders? And how exactly does that constitute a negotiation?

The King County Superior Court judge who rendered one of the opinions being challenged in Olympia based his ruling at least in part on his observation that the plaintiffs were decent, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens and, as such, deserved the same happiness as heterosexual couples. All of which may or may not be true, but the point is that it’s not up to a judge to bestow happiness.

It’s a judge’s job to enforce the state’s laws — those already on the books, that is, not the ones he assumes the Legislature would have passed if only its members were as enlightened as he.

The appropriate course of action for those who wish same-sex unions to be legal is to either elect representatives who will introduce a bill to that effect in the Legislature or pursue the matter by citizen initiative, which would become law if approved by a majority of Washington’s voters.

That they are attempting, instead, an end run around both the law and the voters is evidence they know their best chance of success is to persuade five of the Supreme Court’s nine justices to ignore their oaths of office and base their ruling on their biases instead of the law.

The sad part is, it just might work.

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