Congratulations, California. And thanks, Judge Downing.



Six years ago this week, Judge William Downing from King County Superior Court issued his opinion in Andersen v. King County.  Judge Downing anticipated the arguments made yesterday by U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker in California, overturning California’s Proposition 8.  Judge Downing’s decision was the first trial court decision in our country to declare that excluding same-sex couples from marriage “is not rationally related to any legitimate or compelling state interest.”

In Judge Downing’s opinion issued on August 4th, 2004,  he concluded that “the exclusion of same-sex partners from civil marriage and the privileges attendant thereto is not rationally related to any legitimate or compelling state interest and is certainly not narrowly tailored toward such an interest.” 

Similarly, Judge Vaughn Walker yesterday said that the State of California “has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions.”

Hail these compelling decisions!

This result is important to me on a very personal note.  My husband, Brad Bagshaw, had been part of the Lambda Legal and Northwest Women’s Law Center team who represented the same sex couples in King County.  He joined Jamie Pedersen, Lisa Stone, Pat Novotny, Jenny Pizer, Jennifer Divine and dozens more who researched and drafted the legal briefs for Heather Andersen, Leslie Christian et al.  Brad had argued the Andersen case before Judge Downing earlier in 2004.

We had been working closely with the LGBT community and anticipating the judge’s decision for weeks.   On the morning of August 4, 2004, I was in a negotiation session away from my office.  I had asked my assistant to notify me the moment the judge’s decision was posted.

Framed to commemorate a day worth celebration.

In the middle of this negotiation, in walked the receptionist and handed me a telephone message slip that read “Ruling in favor of the plaintiff.”  I stared at the slip and asked, “Are you sure?”  With her affirmation, I had to excuse myself and grab for the Kleenex box.   Tears of delighted relief flowed down my face.  I have saved that phone slip as a constant reminder of that day, that pivotal decision, and the right result.

To this day I am grateful to Judge Downing for recognizing the couples and justice in the Andersen case.  Judge Downing’s sage words struck me deeply both then and again today as I write this:

Leslie Christian, left, and her partner, Heather Andersen, being interviewed after the decision in 2004. Photo by Dan DeLong of the P.I.

“Their [Plaintiffs’] lives reflect hard work, professional achievement, religious faith and a willingness to stand up for their beliefs. They are law-abiding, taxpaying model citizens. They include exemplary parents, adoptive parents, foster parents and grandparents. They well know what it means to make a commitment and to honor it. There is not one among them that any of us should not be proud to call a friend or neighbor or to sit with at small desks on back-to-school night. There is no worthwhile institution that they would dishonor, much less destroy.”

Thank you Judge Downing, Brad Bagshaw, Jamie Pedersen, Lisa Stone, Pat Novotny, Jenny Pizer, Jennifer Divine and millions more who are working for equal rights and justice for all.

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