As expected by opponents of same-sex marriage in May who warned homosexuals would not stop at pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, eight couples from Washington are challenging the states Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage to be between a man and a woman only. However, the couples were faced with a crowd of evangelical ministers who were there to defend the institution.
The lawsuit, which questions the constitutionality of DOMA, was filed by six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses from King County in March. Two other couples later joined the suit. Washington is one of the 38 states enacting DOMA.
Lawyers for King County and the state said the Legislature had a rational basis for enacting the 1998 law and thus it should be upheld.
It's a question headed for the state Supreme Court, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing said. He promised to rule within 10 days.
Attorney Bradley Bagshaw, who was representing the couples, said the marriage law is unconstitutional because the right to marry is a fundamental right.
"There is no history and tradition of same-sex marriage and for that reason the county's view is that there is no fundamental right," said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Darren Carnell.
In his argument, Bagshaw compared the denial of same-sex marriage to laws that once barred interracial marriage.
Pastor Doug Wheeler of Christian Restoration Center, one of the 42 black pastors who intervened along with two groups in defense of the states law, strongly disagreed.
"It just blows us away to use that argument. It is really disturbing, he said. "This is not really a civil rights issue.
The two groups intervening in the case are Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government and the Coalition for Community Development and Renewal, a group of inner-city pastors.
Steven O'Ban, an attorney representing the two groups, said, "The state recognizes and protects the only relationship that can produce children.
"We're just saying keep that foundation. All of us here are from the love of a man and woman. We're not against anything, we're just for the institution of marriage," Wheeler said.
Members of Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government including its president Dr. Joseph Fuiten wore silver lapel ribbons as symbols of their defense of authentic marriage.
"I think the tide is with us if we can keep the courts at bay," he said. "Where it has been voted on, the votes are with us. People don't want to change marriage; it has existed for thousands of years and there's no reason to change it now."