Marriage equality in Washington: Something that has been fought for by democrats in the state legislature, chiefly by openly gay Senator Ed Murray and via various lawsuits since 2004, is now a reality.
Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law in February after what she described as a complicated personal journey on the issue. Any Washington State marriage will of course not be recognized outside of the state, but gay and lesbian couples in the Evergreen State will enjoy all the same benefits of their heterosexual counterparts.
The journey she describes is one that is echoed on the national level in polling over the last decade. Support of marriage equality has risen dramatically in the past decade, and while there is still plenty of opposition, the numbers are definitely favoring the progressive’s stance.
This is all very good news indeed for gays in Washington, but there is a dark cloud hanging over this progress. A public initiative. Referendum 74 asks voters to approve or reject the state’s new law. An “approve” vote would obviously keep the law in place, and would allow gay couples to begin marrying on December 7th. A “reject” vote would overturn the law.
This issue of putting up minority civil rights to public vote, specifically in terms of gay rights, is one that has not gone well for supporters of these rights. The record is 0-31. Gay marriage has gone down every time it’s been put up to popular vote.
Washington is among the states that will attempt to begin reversing that trend this fall and the polling seems promising. A bright spot in Washington state is the Referendum 71 vote in 2009. This vote upheld the so-called “everything but marriage” law which preceded the current law. This precedent should be heartening and encouraging to marriage equality proponents, should the new initiative drive gather enough signatures.
So in the broader sense, the war is being won. Washington and Maryland most recently joined the ranks of states where marriage equality is a reality, but there is more work to be done. Marriage equality opponents will not give up easily, and the road will be long and difficult.
Complacency is not an option in this campaign. If you’re gay or love someone who is, tell your friends about how important support of Referendum 74 is. They are counting on you.