The Washington Supreme Court has refused to review a lower court’s decision that allows the mayor of Seattle to grant same-sex marriage benefits to employees of the city, in apparent conflict with the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which had been upheld by the same Supreme Court.
The Pacific Justice Institute, a values-oriented public interest firm, brought the request to review the conflict with the state law.
The state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which was upheld by the Washington Supreme Court, requires that the state not recognize same-sex marriages from outside the state.
However, the mayor of Seattle issued an executive order in direct contradiction of the state law, instructing all city departments to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions now, including California, for the purposes of employee benefits.
Pacific Justice challenged the order by filing suit, arguing the mayor did not have the authority to contradict state law. PJI staff attorney Matthew McReynolds argued the case at the Washington Court of Appeal earlier.
PJI said, “the appellate judges seemed to realize that the mayor’s actions were setting a precedent for other mayors to grant benefits for bigamous and incestuous ‘marriages.’ However, the three judges on the panel sided with the mayor anyway.”
Now the Supreme Court has declined to overturn that decision.
“This decision by the highest court in Washington is just another example of the serious attack by judicial and political activists to undermine the voices of voters and the will of the people,” Brad Dacus, Pacific Justice president, said. “It is critical that voters amend their state constitutions to ensure the traditional definition of marriage is not thwarted by a handful of government officials.”
Pacific Justice Institute encourages church leaders who are concerned about safeguarding their view of marriage to contact their offices. The organization said it already has received dozens of phone calls and e-mails.
In both California and Massachusetts, it was rulings from state Supreme Courts that found it unconstitutional to prevent same-sex duos from having the title “married.” The Washington state Supreme Court decision contradicted those.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court concluded state law limiting marriage to one man and one woman does not violate the state constitution.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, 19 same-sex couples, had argued the ban violates a constitutional prohibition against granting privileges to one group of citizens but not another.
The high court got involved in that decision after a lower court ruled the state’s Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
But the state Supreme Court noted in its ruling in 2006, “Although marriage has evolved, it has not included a history and tradition of same-sex marriage in this nation or in Washington State. … It cannot be overemphasized that our state constitution provides for a representative democracy and that the people, who have consented to be governed, speak through their elected representatives. When no fundamental right or suspect class exists, the public consensus, as evidenced by legislation adopted after robust debate, must be given great deference.”