'Gay Marriage' Advocates Hopeful After Court Hearing

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The Washington State Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit challenging Washington state's ban on same-sex marriage, and according to those who want to legalize such arrangements, the session went well -- because the judges seemed interested in the "human dimensions" of the case.

But outside the court building, thousands of protestors gathered for a "Mayday for Marriage" rally -- a show of support for maintaining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Two homosexual advocacy groups -- Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women's Law Center -- believe they have a good chance of forcing the same type of social change in Washington as activists did in Massachusetts.

"Many of the justices clearly understand that same-sex couples are being discriminated against because they cannot marry, and that this discrimination deserves their attention," said Lambda Legal's Jennifer Pizer, one of the attorneys involved in the case.

"This is clearly a moderate court that's looking very closely at the issues in front of it. Based on today's arguments, we have every reason to believe that the justices' minds are open and that they're taking this case very seriously," Pizer said in a statement.

Lambda Legal said that based on the questions the judges asked on Tuesday, it appears that many of them "understand who gay people are," "seem to know gay people personally," and "clearly understand that lesbian and gay Washingtonians have constitutional rights."

Said Pizer, "They understand that real people are harmed by the state law prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying. They see that this isn't an abstract question -- that we're talking about real families."

The case before the Washington Supreme Court involves 19 same-sex couples who want to legally marry. Earlier, two lower-court judges sided with those couples, ruling that Washington's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. The state appealed, and the case landed in the Washington Supreme Court.

The question before the court is whether a state law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman violates the state's constitution.

"When judges appreciate the human dimensions of our cases, we often have good results," Pizer said on Tuesday.

She doesn't expect a quick decision in the case, however. "The questions the justices asked today suggest that there is a range of legal issues they're struggling with that will likely take them some time to sort out."

Opponents of homosexual marriage, meantime, say their "Mayday" rally was intended to "get the attention of our elected officials" -- including Washington's elected Supreme Court judges.

The group that organized the rally -- Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government -- defends heterosexual marriage on religious grounds, but the group also recognizes "that other people have valid reasons for supporting marriage besides the revelation of God."

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