LEGAL BRIEFING - Gay marriage a core issue for many


Dear John,

It seems like every time I listen to or read the news there is an article about gay rights or gay marriage. I just don't get what all the fuss is about. Why should I care about what two people do in their bedrooms? Why can't the homosexuals keep their lives private like everyone else?


Curious Curt

Dear Curt,

This multi-faceted issue touches the deepest core of many people, who they are as an individual and their fundamental beliefs

An extreme simplification of the debate hinges on whether one believes that homosexuality is conduct or if it is an immutable, unchangeable characteristic. If a characteristic is deemed immutable, then the Constitution affords it greater protection than something that can be controlled. For example, race and gender have been deemed immutable. However, socio-economic class has not.

With regard to marriage, people against extending rights to same-sex couples base their argument on tradition. If they believe homosexuality is a choice of conduct, they may argue a "slippery-slope" notion that if same-sex marriage is allowed, polygamy or bestiality will have to be allowed.

Those who support same-sex marriage see the right to marry the partner of their choice as a fundamental right. They claim that families have a variety of forms and can function beneficially regardless of their makeup and serve as a means of strengthening society.

As a means of compromise, Washington created "Registered Domestic Partnerships." The legislation has changed several times to its present form.

Current law states that "it is the intent of the legislature that for all purposes under state law, state registered domestic partners shall be treated the same as married spouses." This essentially means that domestic partners have everything that married people have, except the use of the term "marriage" (and federal recognition).

The debate has not ended.

Some people think the compromise is the same as condoning same-sex couples and their conduct. They want to repeal it.

Others think this "separate but equal" treatment is the same as separate restrooms, drinking fountains and classrooms created to promote racial discrimination. They argue that any difference is perpetuating the belief that their relationships are less valid. This stigmatization permeates society in many ways: TV and movie couples, personal interactions and group affiliations, to name a few.

When an issue touches people so deeply, it is nearly impossible to resolve quickly or silently. I hope you continue to follow your curiosities.



John Hartzell is a Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and not intended as legal advice. Have a question? Ask John at


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