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July 09, 2010

Let’s put two more fair-minded justices on Washington’s Supreme Court

Posted in: candidates

If we needed a reminder, this week’s rulings striking down Section 3 of DOMA demonstrate the importance of having fair minded justices on the bench.

By a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court of the State of Washington ruled in 2006 in Andersen v. King County that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was constitutional.  Two of the five justices in the majority, James Johnson and Richard Sanders, agreed with the judgment but apparently felt that the majority opinion wasn’t homophobic enough; Johnson wrote a separate opinion laden with raw anti-gay animus, and Sanders co-signed it.  Here is a line from their opinion — they chose to put scare quotes around the word marriage when referring to same-sex marriage.

Gratuitously venomous, Johnson & Sanders likened marriage equality to polygamy and used terms like “professed homosexuals”.  They referred to the Goodridge marriage equality decision in Massachusetts as a “notorious exception” that “has not yet been reversed.”  They insultingly referred to the married gay and lesbian plaintiffs as “individuals…who claim they were married in other states”, and to equality advocates as “special interests loudly advocating the latest political correctness.”  They referred to their colleague Justice Mary Fairhurst, who wrote a dissenting opinion, as “paranoid” to suggest that laws like DOMA are passed out of anti-gay animus.

The homophobic incumbents are up for reelection.  Let’s replace them with fair-minded and impartial Stan Rumbaugh and Charlie Wiggins!

Stan Rumbaugh is challenging Johnson; Charlie Wiggins is challenging Sanders.  Stan Rumbaugh and Charlie Wiggins are both credible candidates who have been endorsed by Equal Rights Washington among a host of others.

Vote Stan Rumbaugh for Position 1!

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Vote Charlie Wiggins for Position 6!

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 Josh Friedes, Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington, shared these comments with me:

Today’s ruling striking down Section 3 of DOMA demonstrates the importance of having fair minded justices on the bench.

Stan Rumbaugh has a demonstrated record of impartiality and a deep commitment to upholding the civil rights of all Washingtonians.  Rumbaugh’s law partner, Terry Barnett, represented a man named Frank Vasquez whose partner of 28 years died without a will in 1995.  The deceased partner’s sisters claimed that they were entitled to all of the assets, including the home where the couple had lived.  Rumbaugh’s law firm doggedly pursued the case pro bono (without accepting payment) for six years and in 2001 they won the first significant victory ever for gay rights in the Washington Supreme Court.  Ultimately, Rumbaugh and his partners paid out of their own pockets to settle the case with the sisters and make sure that Frank Vasquez could stay in his house.  

Charlie Wiggins has demonstrated a true interest in learning about the challenges faced by Washington’s minority communities.  Unlike Justice Sanders who Charlie Wiggins is challenging, we believe that Charlie Wiggins would approach any case involving LGBT matters without the anti-LGBT animus that Sanders has demonstrated in his opinions.  While we are not 100% comfortable with previous statements Wiggins has made, he like most human beings of good conscience has demonstrated an ability to evolve his thinking when presented with compelling facts.  Sanders, by contrast, has written in his judicial opinions what can only charitably viewed as homophobic.

Very important: Because Stan Rumbaugh is the only challenger for Position 1, the race will be won or lost in the August 17, 2010 primary.  Please help get the word out about Stan Rumbaugh, join Stan Rumbaugh on Facebook and consider making a donation to the Equal Rights Washington Political Action Committee.  The top priority of ERW PAC is electing fair and impartial judges and pro-equality legislators.Joe Mirabella has posted a diary at Seattle P.I.‘s Step Forward recounting an interview he conducted with Stan Rumbaugh.  Joe has given me permission to reproduce it here, in full.  I think it provides some interesting insights.

I spoke to Stan Rumbaugh. He is running to be a Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court in Position 1 against incumbent Justice James Johnson. Equal Rights Washington endorsed both Stan Rumbaugh and Charlie Wiggins for the Supreme Court. After speaking with Rumbaugh, I too enthusiastically endorse Stan Rumbaugh.

Stan Rumbaugh would be a greatly needed progressive voice on the court.

During our conversations we discussed several important issues that are important to the LGBT and progressive communities.

Rumbaugh first became aware of the LGBT civil rights movement college in 1974, “When I was going to college it seemed to me that the LGBT community was really emerging as not just a force in politics, but was really coming to it’s own,” he said, “Over the years the LGBT community has been in my consciousness.”

Rumbaugh is a practicing trial attorney, “Throughout my legal career I have gone out of my way to help all people, including LGBT people,” he said.

I asked Rumbaugh directly if he thought gays and lesbian couples have a state constitutional right to marriage. While he could not answer the question directly because he may face a similar case as a Justice he did say, “I found the Protection of Marriage Act to be backward looking. I am sorry the Supreme Court endorsed it.”

Lurleen From Pam’s House Blend reminded us how Rumbaugh’s opponent sided in that case in 2006:

By a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court of the State of Washington ruled in 2006 in Andersen v. King County that the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was constitutional.  Two of the five justices in the majority, James Johnson and Richard Sanders, agreed with the judgment but apparently felt that the majority opinion wasn’t homophobic enough; Johnson wrote a separate opinion laden with raw anti-gay animus, and Sanders co-signed it.  Here is a line from their opinion — they chose to put scare quotes around the word marriage when referring to same-sex marriage.

Gratuitously venomous, Johnson & Sanders likened marriage equality to polygamy and used terms like “professed homosexuals”.  They referred to the Goodridge marriage equality decision in Massachusetts as a “notorious exception” that “has not yet been reversed.”  They insultingly referred to the married gay and lesbian plaintiffs as “individuals…who claim they were married in other states”, and to equality advocates as “special interests loudly advocating the latest political correctness.”  They referred to their colleague Justice Mary Fairhurst, who wrote a dissenting opinion, as “paranoid” to suggest that laws like DOMA are passed out of anti-gay animus.

Stan Rumbaugh is not a stranger to discrimination. He grew up in a small town. His mother was only 16 when he was born. Several of his friend’s parents would not let their kids play at his house because of religiously motivated judgments against single mothers. He also talked about hearing anti-Semitic comments about his Jewish wife “that are religiously based with some frequency.”

I asked him when religious liberty conflicts with non-discrimination policies, which right is more important, the right to religious liberty or the right to live free from discrimination? While he could not answer directly because it may be a question before the Court, he did say, “My Focus — the Focus of a Supreme Court Justice is to protect the individual rights and liberties of every citizen of the state of Washington.”

Rumbaugh is on the board of Planned Parenthood. He said, “I believe everyone should have the right to make their personal choice. Obviously there are limits like when other people’s choices bump against another person’s rights, but a woman has a right to determine whether or not they are going to have a child.”

As regular readers of my work would know, I am also very interested in preserving a free and open internet void of corporate or Government censorship. This is often refereed to as “Net Neutrality” or “Open Internet.”

I used this opportunity to learn where Rumbaugh lands on that issue. He said, “I think people have the right to access any kind of information. There are limits like grossly obscene material or child pornography, but I personally set the bar pretty high on that,” he said. “The Internet is the genie out of the bottle. I do not think it is up to any corporation what people see. They can charge for their service, but if the issue is that Comcast or Google decides what we can access, I have a problem with that.”

I found Stan Rumbaugh to be a reasonable and forthright candidate. I hope you will consider supporting him for Supreme Court Justice.

Cross-posted at Washblog.


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