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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Washington Supreme Court Gets It Right

Today, the Washington Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is, if fact, constitutional.

The ruling follows a similar July 6 ruling by the New York Court of Appeals upholding the constitutionality of New York's marriage law. I commented at the time that the New York ruling was a victory not only for the protection of marriage, but also for the legislative process. The same can be said of today's Washington decision.

Writing for the majority, Justice Barbara Madsen said,

"Personal views must not interfere with the judge's responsibility to decide cases as a judge and not as a legislator... While same-sex marriage may be the law at a future time, it will be because the people declare it to be, not because five members of this court have dictated."
In a concurring opinion, Justice James Johnson wrote,

"At its core, the claims (by gay-marriage backers) involve not only the purported right to a `marriage' with a person of the same sex, but also a claim of raw judicial power to redefine public institutions such as marriage.

"The lower courts, and the dissenters, cannot create a fundamental right to same-sex `marriage' without assuming in the courts the power to redefine marriage and presumably any other right of our citizens under the United States and Washington Constitutions. This court does not possess that power - no court does."
Both of these judges seem to understand what far too many activist judges seem to have forgotten: that their job is to interpret the law, not to write law.

Mike Hewitt, writing as a guest columnist in The Seattle Times, said it very well.

Our Legislature passed a law several years ago that clearly defines marriage this way, and it would have been a travesty if the court had ignored the will of the people and those elected to serve them in Olympia…

We have to remember that this case is as much about the separation of powers and upholding the constitution as it is about marriage. When you take the intense emotions out of this issue, what remains is the fact that it is the Legislature's duty and right to define marriage, not the court's. While the judicial branch has a history of legislating from the bench, I am very pleased that in this case, they recognized the clear and concise separation of powers and upheld the Legislature's intent.
While we certainly have a long way to go, it's encouraging each time we see a court get it right.

2 Comments:

Blogger Malott said...

...a long way to go, indeed.

But every positive state law, every referendum, every pro-traditional-marriage decision made by state supreme courts is a statement and a prededent.

But I have no idea how this current U.S. Supreme Court would rule on the issue, and eventually I figure it will end up in their hands.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Bryan Alexander said...

Hopefully, Bush will have an opportunity to replace another liberal justice with a constructionist. If he does not have the opportunity to do so, the next president probably will; hopefully that will be a conservative president.

10:20 AM  

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