Singer v. Hara
11 Wn.App. 247, 522 P.2d 1187 (1974)

  • Singer and Barwick wanted to get married. They applied for a license in Washington and were denied...
    • ...based on the fact that they were both male.
  • Singer and Barwick sued to compel the county to issue them a marriage license.
  • The Trial Court denied them a license, since Washington law explicitly prohibited same-sex marriage. They appealed.
    • Singer and Barwick argued that the Statute prohibiting same-sex marriage was a violation of the Washington Constitution (as well as the US Constitution) because it denied equal rights on the basis of sex.
      • Washington argued that it didn't discriminate on the basis of sex because it forbid both males and females from marrying someone of the same sex. See, totally equal!
  • The Washington Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Washington Appellate Court found marriage his historically defined as "one man and one woman." Therefore it would be impossible to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, because they could not fit the definition.
      • It would be akin to going to the DMV and trying to get a car registration for your bicycle. You can't do it because a bike isn't a car.
    • The Court distinguished Loving v. Virginia (388 U.S. 1 (1967)), because as a man and a woman, Mr. and Mrs. Loving could meet the statutory definition of marriage, even though they were of different races.
      • "There is no analogous sexual classification involved in the instant case because Singer and Barwick are not being denied entry into the marriage relationship because of their sex; rather, they are being denied because of the recognized definition of that relationship as one which may be entered into only by two persons who are members of the opposite sex."
    • The Court found that there was no violation of the Washington Equal Rights Amendment because that only applies when an individual can show that they have been denied a right on the basis of their sex. Singer and Barwick cannot show they are being denied a right because the right they are seeking does not exist.
      • "In substance, the relationship proposed by Singer and Barwick does not authorize the issuance of a marriage license because what they propose is not a marriage."
    • The Court applied a rational basis test for review, which only requires the State to show that the law is a rational means to an end that may be legitimately pursued by government.
      • Singer and Barwick argued for a strict scrutiny review, but the Court found that homosexuals were not a suspect class.
  • Basically, this case said that as long as you define the term marriage as only being between 'one man and one woman', then all the constitutional issues become irrelevant because it becomes impossible for two members of the same-sex to meet the definition, and therefore they could never be granted the status.
    • They aren't being denied the right to marriage because of their sex, they are being denied the right to marriage because it is impossible for them to meet the definition of marriage.
    • See Baehr v. Lewin (74 Haw. 530 (1993)), which said that if marriage is not statutorily defined as being only between one man and one women, then the State must show a compelling reason for denying the right (aka strict scrutiny).
    • Since the Baehr decision, a lot of States have modified their Constitutions to create statutory definitions of marriage, which ended a number of legal challenges.
      • To make up for it, some States have also enacted laws to create civil unions or domestic partnerships to allow same-sex couples to have some of the benefits available to married couples.
    • Massachusetts became the first State to allow same sex marriage after their ballot initiative to add the statutory definition of marriage to the State Constitution failed.
      • See Goodrich v. Department of Pub. Health (440 Mass. 309 (2003)).