Washington State to decide on gay marriage

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Washington could become the second state in the US to legalise same-sex marriages today as gay activists eagerly await the ruling of the state Supreme Court on the issue due out this morning.

The ruling comes 16 months after a case involving 19 gay lesbian couples challenging the Washington’s Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) came under consideration by the Supreme Court.

The case, Andersen vs King County, argues that the Defence of Marriage Act, limiting marriage to only between a man and a women violates Washington State’s constitution.

The Act, passed by a large majority in the Legislature in 1998, immediately spurred a huge movement by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in the state to overturn it through the legal system.

News stations in Seattle are reporting three possible outcomes in the case, one would uphold the Defence of Marriage Act; one would force the Legislature to address the question of the right to marry; and the third option would be to strike the Act down entirely, granting gay marriage in Washington State.

If the Supreme Court should uphold the Defence of Marriage Act, it would be the end of the line for the 19 gay couples involved in the lawsuit – and a resounding blow to gay marriage advocates in the state. The couples would not be able to appeal the ruling as the challenge is based on constitutional law, and the Washington Supreme Court holds final authority in the case.

However, if the Supreme Court should strike down the Defence of Marriage Act, undoing their decision could prove extremely difficult for opponents of gay marriage. According to Equality Washington, only a state or US constitutional amendment initiated by the Washington State Legislature could reverse the state supreme court’s decision. This would require a two-thirds majority of both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate, followed by a vote of the people.

Of course, an amendment to the United States Constitution could overturn all state laws allowing legal marriages for same-sex couples, but so far a federal constitutional amendment has faced stiff opposition in Congress.

The State of New York recently ruled against gay marriages.

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