Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


OLYMPIA—Attorney General Bob Ferguson reiterated Washington state’s support for marriage equality today as the US Supreme Court hears two landmark cases. Washington joined more than a dozen other states in two “friend-of-the-court briefs” in these cases in late February.

“I am proud of the active role Washington played in developing the states’ arguments supporting marriage equality for couples in Washington and across the country,” Ferguson said.  “Our state has an important interest in supporting marriage equality and in encouraging the Court to ensure the federal government respects marriages that are valid under Washington law.”

Today, the court heard arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, a case determining whether or not to strike down California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in that state.  The Ninth Circuit ruled that California’s Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  

Washington joined 12 other states in a “friend-of-the-court” brief, supporting the Ninth Circuit’s ruling and arguing that Proposition 8 violates the Equal Protection Clause because there is no rational basis for California to deny same sex couples the right to marry on an equal basis as opposite sex couples.

Tomorrow, the court will hear oral arguments in U.S. v. Windsor, a case challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In this case, the Internal Revenue Service denied Ms. Windsor a refund on federal estate taxes when her same-sex spouse died—a refund she would have received had her spouse been of the opposite sex. While the state of New York recognized the couple’s marriage, the IRS denied the refund under section 3 of DOMA. Section 3 declares that any time “marriage” or “spouse” appears in any federal law, it only applies to a marriage of a man and a woman.

Washington joined 14 other states and the District of Columbia in a “friend-of-the-court” brief agreeing with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by denying federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married under the laws of their state.

“Now that Washington voters have approved same-sex marriage, couples in our state could find themselves in similar situations—being denied federal benefits provided to other couples,” Ferguson said. “It is important that Washington’s voice be heard in this case.”

The Washington State Legislature approved Senate Bill 5688, the “everything-but-marriage” bill, in 2009. Under the measure, same-sex couples were granted the right to enter into domestic partnerships with all the legal rights and responsibilities of married couples, except that a domestic partnership was not a marriage.  Opponents garnered enough signatures to refer the measure to voters as Referendum 71, but voters ultimately affirmed these rights of same sex couples by a vote of more than 53 percent.

In 2012, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 6239, legalizing same-sex marriage. Once again, opponents garnered enough signatures to refer the measure to voters. Referendum 74 was approved by nearly 54 percent at the November election – making Washington the ninth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court typically issues a decision by late June when it adjourns for a summer recess.

The states that joined the Perry brief include: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The Attorney General of California filed a separate brief in support of equal marriage rights.

The states that joined the Windsor brief include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

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Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, 360-586-0725