Washington State Initiative would require married couples to have kids

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An initiative has been introduced in the U.S. state of Washington that would require a married couple to have children within three years, or else their marriage would become void.

The activist group Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance (WA-DOMA) filed Initiative 957 on January 26. If passed, marriage in the state would be limited to men and women who are able to have children. In order to receive a marriage license, a couple would have to assert that they "know of no reason" that they cannot have children. If they did not have children within three years, their marriages would be subject to annulment. All other marriages would be defined as 'unrecognized' and people in them would be ineligible to receive any marriage benefits.

WA-DOMA formed in 2006 in response to the decision in the case Andersen v. King County, where the state Supreme Court upheld Washington's ban on same-sex marriage. The court found the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to unions between a man and woman, was proper. In the decision, the court reasoned that there was a "legitimate state interest" in limiting marriage to couples capable of having children.

WA-DOMA is in favor of gay marriage rights. The purpose of the initiative, according to founder Gregory Gadow, is to show that the logic behind the DOMA ruling is absurd. 'For many years, social conservatives have claimed that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation ... The time has come for these conservatives to be dosed with their own medicine,' said Gadow. 'If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who cannot or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage.'

Supporters of I-957 must gather at least 224,800 valid signatures by July 6 to put it on the November ballot. The alliance says if the initiative were passed, the state supreme court would likely strike it down as unconstitutional, which would in turn weaken the Court's reasoning in upholding the Defense of Marriage Act.

The measure's backers have said they are planning two additional initiatives. One would prohibit divorce or separation when a married couple has children, and would make having a child together the equivalent of marriage.

Other gay rights groups do not support the paper. Activist Bill Dubay commented that while he gets the point of the initiative, it is unlikely he would sign it. The gay advocacy group Equal Rights Washington does not endorse the bill, stressing that that families come in all forms, with or without children, and that laws should help families, not hurt them.

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