A funny thing happened on the way to Washington State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen's decision in Andersen v. King County. Madsen, who wrote the plurality opinion that upheld Washington's Defense of Marriage Act, scored straight As in her 2004 interview with SEAMEC, the GLBT committee that interviews and rates candidates on behalf of the gay community.
Madsen, formerly a Seattle municipal judge who started out as a prosecuting attorney with the Seattle City Attorney's Office, was first elected to the state supreme court in 1992. Madsen has an even-keeled record on the court, getting high marks from both the Association of Washington Business—she got their highest score—and liberals as well for her votes on environmental issues, liability law, public-disclosure laws, and criminal-justice issues.
She also got high marks from gays: again, straight As.
How did Madsen—a justice who upheld DOMA because "the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of the human race"—score straight As with gays?
Well, judging from the notes taken by SEAMEC's interviewers and judging from the questionnaire filled out by Madsen herself, Madsen snowed the gay community.
The SEAMEC questionnaire presents a series of statements that the candidate is supposed to mark with an A (for Agree) and D (for Disagree) or a Q (for Qualified). Check out some of Madsen's answers:
SEAMEC questionnaire: The purpose of marriage is for the nurturing of children. Madsen: Disagree.
SEAMEC questionnaire: Same-sex marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage and the social fabric of the nation. Madsen: Disagree.
SEAMEC questionnaire: Separated same-sex partners should be treated in the same manner as mixed-sex partners with respect to child visitation/custody laws. Madsen: Agree.
Madsen's answers to SEAMEC systematically contradict almost every argument she made in her decision on DOMA, which emphatically backed the view that the purpose for marriage is child nurturing and that same-sex marriage somehow threatens opposite-sex marriage, i.e. "the social fabric."
Also central to Madsen's decision were the notions that gays are not an oppressed minority (a "suspect class") and therefore, the judicial branch must allow the legislature to dictate public policy on this issue without any consideration for minority rights.
This too contradicts the answers Madsen gave SEAMEC.
SEAMEC questionnaire: The civil rights of minorities, and sensitive issues [emphasis added], should be determined only by a majority vote of the legislature or the people, rather than by the courts. Madsen: Disagree.
Madsen was asked about civil unions during her interview with SEAMEC. One SEAMEC interviewer's notes quote Madsen as saying, "[In] terms of law, there are significant implications... marriage carries certain benefits that civil union does not... Civil unions are second class..." Another SEAMEC interviewer wrote down nearly identical quotes: "In terms of laws... benefits, file tax returns... civil unions are second class."
In the same interview Madsen told SEAMAC that "religion and politics don't mix," yet she signed off on a "rational basis" for anti-gay discrimination taken straight from the Christian Right, agreeing that homosexuality is not "immutable" and that "limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples... furthers the well-being of children."
Jem Wear, a retired schoolteacher from Federal Way is a regular SEAMEC election-season inquisitor, and was part of the team that interviewed Madsen in '04. "We thought, 'Well, that's one person that will vote with us,'" Wear, 72, says. (Wear has been with his partner for 43 years.) "Usually we can tell when people are just telling us what we want to hear," he says. "But Madsen just pulled the wool over our eyes. It should be brought to people's attention that she double-crossed us.... I about fell on the floor when I read in the papers how she voted."