State Sen. Ed Murray (D-43), the sponsor of the marriage equality legislation that passed the state senate last week, issued the following statement about the decision in California to overturn Proposition 8, the citizens' measure that specifically banned same-sex marriage in the state constitution.
“Today’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinforces a simple truth: that discrimination against lesbians and gays is incompatible with the fundamental American value of fairness. Fairness is the guiding light of our Constitution. It is the principle that Washington has embraced as it advances marriage equality legislation. And it is that value that I believe will one day allow all gay and lesbian families in our country to experience true equality.”
During last week's gay marriage debate, supporters of Sen. Ed Murray's "civil marriage equality" bill shot down an amendment that would have put the legislation to a public vote. (The public vote is likely to happen anyway after opponents of gay marriage collect 120,000 signatures by June 6.)
Supporters of gay marriage who opposed the amendment, such as Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane), argued that the rights of a minority shouldn't be subject to the whims of the majority.
However, Republicans such as Sen. Don Benton (R-17) and Sen. Mike Padden (R-4), who supported the referendum amendment, argued that "the institution of marriage predates the constitution." Benton then asked: "Something like that---can we even have the legal authority to change it?"
Given today's big news (the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out California's vote to outlaw same-sex marriage), it makes sense that gay marriage opponents tried to step outside the constitution. Because, it turns out, when you go by constitutional rights, public opinion can get it wrong.
As Brown noted in her floor speech, "From the framework of equal rights under the law, this is not something that you ask folks to vote on. ... There are many sad times in our history where the people would have voted for something that would be tragically wrong. Fortunately, we have a nation of laws and rights."
The Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals court took the same view today in California, throwing out 2008's Proposition 8, which famously put a specific prohibition against same-sex marriage in California's constitution. The judges wrote:
“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different people differently,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the decision. “There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.”
“All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same sex-couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation ‘marriage,” the judge wrote, adding: “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California."
The full house will discuss and vote on Washington State's gay-marriage bill tomorrow at 1:00.