Andersen v. King County

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Andersen v. King County
Court Washington Supreme Court
Full case name Heather Andersen and Leslie Christian; Peter Ilgenfritz and David Shull; Johanna Bender and Sherri Kokx; Janet Helson and Betty Lundquist; David Serkin-Poole and Michael Serkin-Poole; Vegavahini Subramaniam and Vaijayanthimala Nagarajan; Elizabeth Reis and Barbara Steele; and Michelle Esguerra; and Boo Torres De Esguera v. King County; Ron Sims, King County Executive; and Dean Logan, King County Director of Records, Elections and Licensing Services Division
Argued March 08, 2005
Decided July 26, 2006
Citation(s) 138 P.3d 963 (Wash. 2006)
Washington's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denying same-sex couples marriage licenses does not violate the due process clause, privilege and immunity clause, or the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) of the Washington State Constitution.
Court membership
Chief Judge Gerry L. Alexander
Associate Judges Bobbe Bridge, Tom Chambers, Mary Fairhurst, Charles W. Johnson, James M. Johnson, Barbara Madsen, Susan Owens, Richard B. Sanders
Case opinions
Plurality Madsen, joined by Alexander, Johnson
Concurrence Alexander
Concurrence Johnson, Sanders
Dissent Fairhurst, joined by Chambers, Owens, Bridge
Dissent Bridge
Dissent Chambers, joined by Owens
Laws applied
Washington Consti. article I, section 3, section 12. article XXXI, section 1. RCW 26.04.020(1)(c)

Andersen v. King County, 138 P.3d 963 (Wash. 2006), formerly Andersen v. Sims, is a Washington Supreme Court case in which eight lesbian and gay couples sued King County and the state of Washington for denying them marriage licenses under the state's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The court ruled that banning same-sex marriage is constitutional since the legislature could reasonably believe it furthers the government interest in promoting procreation.

The state enacted same-sex marriage in 2012. Opponents forced a referendum on the issue, and voters approved the legislation on November 6.

Lower court decisions[edit]

In the case, King County Superior Court Judge William L. Downing ruled that the state law prohibiting same-sex marriages, or DOMA, was unconstitutional, finding for the plaintiffs on August 4, 2004. The judge ruled that restricting the institution of marriage to opposite sex couples "is not rationally related to any legitimate or compelling state interest." The ruling was appealed to the state Supreme Court.


In 2005, the Andersen v. Sims case was consolidated with Castle v. State, another case that was appealed to the Washington Supreme Court from a lower court in Thurston County. The combined cases were filed under Andersen v. King County and Washington Supreme Court heard oral argument on March 8, 2005. On July 26, 2006, the court's ruled in a 5-4 decision that the state Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional. The majority ruled that the state DOMA does not violate the state's constitution.


In the plurality opinion signed by Justices Gerry L. Alexander and Charles W. Johnson, Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that "Under this standard, DOMA is constitutional because the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children's biological parents." Justice Gerry L. Alexander issued a separate concurring opinion, emphasizing the possibility that the legislature or people could expand the definition of marriage in the state. Justice James M. Johnson also issued a separate opinion, co-signed by Justice Richard B. Sanders, which concurred in the judgment only and suggested that the lower court rulings that held DOMA unconstitutional were result-oriented and disregarded the law. The reasoning in Madsen's plurality opinion is similar to that of New York's highest court in Hernandez v. Robles, which was decided on July 6, 2006.

The four justices that dissented accused the majority of relying upon "circular reasoning" in formulating their opinion. In the principal dissenting opinion, signed by Justices Tom Chambers, Susan Owens, and Bobbe J. Bridge, Justice Mary Fairhurst asked: "Would giving same-sex couples the same right that opposite-sex couples enjoy injure the state's interest in procreation and healthy child rearing?" Justice Tom Chambers issued a separate dissenting opinion signed by Justice Susan Owens, while Justice Bobbe J. Bridge issued another dissenting opinion.


Same-sex marriage supporters disagreed with the procreation argument and proposed Initiative 957[1] to challenge the court's assertion.[2] It would have required that all marriages recognized by the state to produce offspring within three years of their solemnization.[3] The initiative was created by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance, a LGBT rights group. The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance hoped to use this to create a test case in order to have a court strike down the measure and highlight what they perceived as the weakness of the Andersen decision's logic.[2] The initiative was filed on January 10, 2007,[1] and withdrawn on July 3, 2007, after sponsors collected about 40,000 signatures, which was too few to qualify the measure for the November ballot.[4]

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage passed the legislature and was signed by Governor Christine Gregoire on February 13, 2012, but opponents gathered enough signatures to force a voter referendum on the legislation. Voters approved the proposed legislation in November 2012, making same-sex marriage legal as of December 6.[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Proposed Initiatives to the People - 2007". Washington Secretary of State. 2007-10-01. Initiative 957. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  2. ^ a b "Defense of Marriage Initiative accepted by Secretary of State" (Press release). Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance. 2007-01-26. Archived from the original on 2007-07-09. 
  3. ^ "Text of Initiative 957" (PDF). Washington Secretary of State. 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  4. ^ "Initiative 957 Withdrawn By Sponsors" (Press release). Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance. 2007-07-06. 
  5. ^ Turnbull, Lornet (February 13, 2012). "Gregoire signs gay marriage into law". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 13, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Gay marriage in Washington state blocked by proposed referendum". Reuters. June 6, 2012. 

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