The Washington Court of Appeals is finally ready to hear arguments throughout this week that are challenging a decision by Seattles mayor to honor homosexual marriages.
The suit has been on hold since 2004, after the courts were still discussing the constitutionality of a Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMA) that had already passed and defined marriage between one man and one woman.
After upholding that act, Mayor Greg Nickels executive order will now be challenged.
"The people of Washington spoke unequivocally through their elected legislators, upholding traditional marriage, explained Matthew McReynolds, a Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) staff attorney who began arguing the case on Tuesday in Seattle, in a statement. Mayor Nickels has absolutely no authority to recognize same-sex marriage in contradiction of state law."
The dispute began when Nickels issued an executive order in 2004 recognizing same-sex marriages from other locations, such as Massachusetts the only U.S. state to have legalized gay marriage. The purpose of the initiative was to give employee benefits to such couples.
The state of Washington had already voted on the issue with the DOMA, however, and had already defined marriage as between one male and one female, so the executive order was strictly against the vote, argue PJI representatives.
PJI attorneys filed a lawsuit that year, but were unable to bring the case to court until the Washington Supreme Court had decided whether the DOMA was constitutional.
After upholding the DOMA last summer, the Washington Court of Appeals will now consider whether Nickels actions conflicted with the DOMA.
"Our nation cannot exist without continued respect for the rule of law, said Brad Dacus, president of PJI, in a statement. Having spoken through their elected representatives, the citizens of Washington State are entitled to have their will respected by local officials, regardless of their ideology."
The lawsuit comes amid the official start of civil unions for the state of Washington. Same-sex couples from around the state traveled to the capital Olympia, Wash., on Monday to get official recognition for their new rights.
"Twelve years and two grown kids it's about time, don't you think?" told Anna Schlecht, a 50-year-old lesbian from Tacoma, Wash., to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. "It's a big day. I'm an activist, and I've been working on this issue, but on a personal level, I guess I'm a little surprised at how emotional it feels."
Christian and pro-family groups were unsatisfied with the new legislation, however, since it gives marriage-like rights to gay couples.
"Domestic partnerships give marriage-like benefits without the benefit of marriage, explained Joseph Fuiton, chairman of the conservative Faith and Freedom Network, to the Seattle PI. "God's law is established in the male-female relationship. When the state acts to replace the wisdom of God with the wisdom of the Legislature, we are headed for an uncertain future, and that is putting the best face on it. With this social experimentation, the state of Washington is signaling to our children that domestic partnerships are nearly as good as marriage."
For the current Seattle lawsuit, PJI is being assisted by attorney Darren Walker of Vancouver, Wash., as well as Brian Fahling of the American Family Association who will act as co-counsel.