The Wedding March

For Seattle-area pastor and gay-marriage opponent Joseph Fuiten, there was little time to savor the good news. Within hours after the Washington Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, to uphold the state's ban on same-sex marriage, Fuiten--who leads a 2,000-member congregation--was drafting a missive about the ruling to send to 30,000 conservative Christian voters. His goal was not to cheer the victory but rather to punish the justices who didn't join the winning side. Two of them are up for re-election this fall. "They've developed themselves a little track record on family issues," Fuiten says of the dissenting justices. "We need to give them the heave-ho."

Not long ago, Fuiten imagined he'd be in a far different position. The left-leaning Washington Supreme Court had been widely expected to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay-rights advocates hoped a win would shift the debate in their favor, proving to the nation that gay marriage could exist outside staunchly liberal Massachusetts. Privately, some conservatives figured that images of gay couples flocking to Seattle would galvanize the right and boost prospects for a federal constitutional amendment. But last week's ruling, which stated that "limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children," left both sides retooling their strategies.

For gay-rights advocates, the Washington decision was the latest in a wrenching string of legal defeats--judges also ruled against gay marriage in New York and Nebraska last month. "There's no question this has been a brutal few weeks," says Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry. Though the court fights will go on--cases are still pending in six states--gay advocates are trying to broaden their approach. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, says HRC plans to increase its focus on state and local races. "It puts a pipeline of people in place who could go to Washington, D.C.," he says.

Last week 250 supporters--including Cornel West and Gloria Steinem--released a statement calling for government benefits and legal recognition for a wide range of "families"--including groups of senior citizens living together, extended families and "households with more than one conjugal partner." The hope was to get leaders of the gay-marriage movement to "rethink and redirect what we're doing," says Joseph DeFilippis, one of the statement's authors.

Though the Washington ruling was a clear win for gay-marriage foes, it may make their ultimate goal--amending the U.S. Con-stitution--moot. "If [gay-rights groups] lose all those lawsuits and don't file any more, we don't need the amendment," says Matt Daniels, president of Alliance for Marriage. Back in Washington state, Fuiten hopes to affect the outcome in September's judicial elections. "You have to think of the audacity it takes to redefine parenthood, redefine marriage," says Fuiten. "Nothing beats people being ticked off." True, but anger cuts both ways.

The Wedding March | News