Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

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Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:19 am UTC

Reuters: Gay marriage seen a step closer in Washington state

A bill to legalize gay marriage in Washington state now has enough votes to pass, a state senator who sponsored the legislation said on Monday, which would put it a major step closer to becoming the seventh state to fully recognize same-sex unions.

Democratic Sen. Ed Murray said supporters had secured the 25 votes needed to pass the bipartisan measure, which is in committee and will likely come to a final vote next month.


It's about damned time. Washington state voters, I urge you to contact your state legislators and ask them to support the bill. Also, there's already talk of a referendum to repeal the legislation if it's passed, similar to California's prop 8, so be on the look out. (Thank you, Catholic church.)
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:40 am UTC

This would be pretty exciting to see- I think I read that if it passes, Washington would be the 7th state to pass such a law.

Would a referendum have a good chance of success? Washington doesn't seem to have the same voter blocks within the more liberal "wing" of it's electorate that California has that were needed to change things. Washington seems to be one of the more liberal states to me, so I'd like to hope that if it passes that such a law would stand.

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Tirian » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:59 am UTC

Go Washington, go Washington!! Nice to see the left coast joining the party. :P

At least in New York, rank and file Catholics are far ahead of the bishops on equal protection under the law. It was gratifying to see polls indicating that they were even more progressive than the unchurched.

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:20 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Would a referendum have a good chance of success? Washington doesn't seem to have the same voter blocks within the more liberal "wing" of it's electorate that California has that were needed to change things. Washington seems to be one of the more liberal states to me, so I'd like to hope that if it passes that such a law would stand.

I'm not sure. Seattle (and the west side of the state generally) tends to be pretty liberal, but it gets more and more conservative as you move eastward. We've had a democratic governor since 1985 and voted for the democratic candidate in every election since 1988, but some of the governor's races have been really close (the 2004 election for governor was decided by a 129 vote margin). It could really go either way.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Magnanimous » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:30 am UTC

It probably helps that Seattle has the second-highest LGBT population of U.S. cities. (As of a few years ago; I assume it's still true.) But the voters east of here are definitely more conservative... It could really go either way.

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Iulus Cofield » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:40 am UTC

Oregon and Washington tend to be very similar politically, in that the only major metropolitan areas are very liberal and the rest of the states very conservative. Several years ago Oregon had a referendum to ban gay marriage that unfortunately passed 60/40. On this particular issue however, it's possible Washington would go the other way because the Seattle metropolitan area is much larger than the Portland metropolitan area, has a large and accepted LGBT district, and has, as their only newspaper, The Stranger, known for their editor-in-chief Dan Savage and a very, very LGBT positive stance. But one doesn't have to get far from Seattle proper to find a lot of conservatives. So it's hard to say. I would guess a referendum would pass/fail narrowly.

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:53 am UTC

That's disappointing to hear.. I suppose the chance of preventing the referendum at all is likely to be low. Hopefully the LGBT community learned how to argue their case better after proposition 8. Still, it's definitely good news that this is very likely to pass the state government- even if it gets switched by referendum, it would speak to growing support that could, if needed, be tapped to pass the legislation all over again.

I know in NH there's been a lot of trouble with the republican takeover of the state legislature trying to repeat our law permitting gay marriage. I don't know if it's a governor's veto or just the more moderate members that are keeping it in check. Actually, that brings to mind a question- does the Washington state government have any capacity to override referendums, like with a 2/3 majority or similar? I guess such a system wouldn't be enough though, since they whole story is because of 1 state senator switching to support.

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Tirian » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:40 pm UTC

Magnanimous wrote:It probably helps that Seattle has the second-highest LGBT population of U.S. cities. (As of a few years ago; I assume it's still true.) But the voters east of here are definitely more conservative... It could really go either way.


It depends on the nature of your conservativeness. ("conservation"?) New York gets quite conservative outside the four big cities, but to a large degree religious fundamentalism is overruled by a limited government argument of why Adam and Steve shouldn't deserve to live their own lives. I'd suspect that there is data around showing the degree to which it creates local jobs for florists and caterers and all of the other economic development involved in weddings. Perhaps Washington would be the place that can give the civil rights restricting referendum process the smackdown it so richly deserves.

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Iulus Cofield » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:53 pm UTC

On the flip side, the consistency of liberalness is a big issue too. While Seattle is very liberal and gay friendly, it's also home to three or four megachurches and a hotbed of the evangelical Emerging Church movement. Mars Hill, perhaps the most influential of them, is infamous for being both anti-gay and anti-feminist.

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Lucrece » Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:00 pm UTC

Maryland and New Jersey are also headed for the passage of a marriage equality bill.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:50 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:...and has, as their only newspaper, The Stranger...

Huh? What about the Times and the P.I.?
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby clintonius » Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:53 am UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:
Iulus Cofield wrote:...and has, as their only newspaper, The Stranger...

Huh? What about the Times and the P.I.?

Ha, I was just about to come in and clarify that for other readers. The Stranger's tagline is "Seattle's only newspaper." It is not, in fact, Seattle's only newspaper, and is not a daily print like the two you mentioned.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby DSenette » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:37 pm UTC

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Sero » Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:37 pm UTC

I actually really like this development. As the comments on that article show, the Christian conservatives will scream about it as they ever do, but phrasing the argument in economic terms (and beyond that of 'What about all the money the marriage industry isn't getting?') is persuasive, and might change the minds of a few people who otherwise just don't care about equality for it's own sake and the sake of justice.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby emceng » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:13 pm UTC

Probably worthy of a new post, but meh. Gov. Christie in New Jersey said today he'll veto a equal marriage rights law. Said he instead wants to have it put to a referendum. Which is weird, considering he's been one of the few Republicans supportive of gay rights, and 2) until recently it sounded like he'd sign the bill.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby lutzj » Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:30 pm UTC

emceng wrote:Probably worthy of a new post, but meh. Gov. Christie in New Jersey said today he'll veto a equal marriage rights law. Said he instead wants to have it put to a referendum. Which is weird, considering he's been one of the few Republicans supportive of gay rights, and 2) until recently it sounded like he'd sign the bill.


Putting the issue up to vote is a brilliant political move for him; it lets him test the waters before throwing his full support behind anything and ensures that he doesn't have to bear responsibility for a(n unpopular) decision.

It'd be nice to see executives stick to their guns on controversial issues but it's hard to blame him for wanting a referendum on this one.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby skeptical scientist » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:49 am UTC

This bill has now passed the house, and will become law as soon as governor Gregoire signs it (some time in the next five days). So you guys better start cracking on wedding plans. :)

With regards to a possible referendum to overturn the law, the recent 9th circuit court decision overturning prop 8 could potentially be very helpful. I haven't read the decision, but my understanding based on others comments is that their decision was that, once the right to the word "marriage" has been extended to gay couples, it can't be taken away. If such a referendum did pass in Washington state, the exact same situation would be created: a prior civil unions law which granted gay couples the same rights as marriage, then the right to marry being extended to gay couples, and then that right taken away by a referendum. Since the 9th circuit court's jurisdiction includes Washington state, their ruling would be binding, and would override any such referendum (assuming, of course, SCOTUS doesn't step in).
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Ibid » Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:29 am UTC

If you go and read the "Prop 8 declared unconstitutional" thread found conveniently on this very section of the fora, you'll see that the argument against Prop. 8 did not in fact have anything to do with rights being repealed after being applied, and everything to do with the specifics of Prop 8. A referendum to repeal could very well be passed in spite of the 9th circuit (or indeed SCOTUS, unless SCOTUS decides to broaden the ruling), provided it was worded properly.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Kaiyas » Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:54 am UTC

emceng wrote:until recently it sounded like he'd sign the bill.

Huh, I was under the impression that he was generally against it. I remember him stating that he wouldn't pass a similar bill when the NY gay marriage law passed.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby skeptical scientist » Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:10 am UTC

Ibid wrote:If you go and read the "Prop 8 declared unconstitutional" thread found conveniently on this very section of the fora

Please don't patronize me.
you'll see that the argument against Prop. 8 did not in fact have anything to do with rights being repealed after being applied, and everything to do with the specifics of Prop 8.

Yeah, I read TGB's post too. However, the court opinion says, "By using their initiative power to target a minority group and withdraw a right that it possessed, without a legitimate reason for doing so, the people of California violated the Equal Protection Clause." So it has something to do with rights being repealed after being applied. TGB is of course correct that the California civil unions law is very relevant to the opinion: that the referendum did nothing but affect the usage of the word "marriage" was why the court found that the people of California didn't have a "legitimate reason" for their referendum. Since Washington has a similar civil unions law, the parallel is nearly perfect.

A referendum to repeal could very well be passed in spite of the 9th circuit (or indeed SCOTUS, unless SCOTUS decides to broaden the ruling), provided it was worded properly.

Obviously the wording of any proposed referendum in Washington is still to be determined, and those writing it will probably attempt to do so in such a way that the 9th circuit court ruling won't apply (or at least to help them make that argument in court). But the situation is very similar to the one in California, so that may not be possible.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Carnildo » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:08 am UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:With regards to a possible referendum to overturn the law, the recent 9th circuit court decision overturning prop 8 could potentially be very helpful. I haven't read the decision, but my understanding based on others comments is that their decision was that, once the right to the word "marriage" has been extended to gay couples, it can't be taken away. If such a referendum did pass in Washington state, the exact same situation would be created: a prior civil unions law which granted gay couples the same rights as marriage, then the right to marry being extended to gay couples, and then that right taken away by a referendum. Since the 9th circuit court's jurisdiction includes Washington state, their ruling would be binding, and would override any such referendum (assuming, of course, SCOTUS doesn't step in).

The situations differ in two ways. First, the Washington civil union law is marriage in all but name (literally: the bill in question is basically two paragraphs defining who can enter into a civil union, and sixty pages that boil down to "replace every instance of 'marriage' with 'marriage or civil union'"), while California's domestic partnerships apparently had some differences from marriage. Second, Proposition 8 was about overturning a law that had already come into force, where the Washington referendum mechanism would act to postpone the law until a popular vote had taken place (see Referendum 71 for a prior example).

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby skeptical scientist » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:36 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:The situations differ in two ways. First, the Washington civil union law is marriage in all but name (literally: the bill in question is basically two paragraphs defining who can enter into a civil union, and sixty pages that boil down to "replace every instance of 'marriage' with 'marriage or civil union'"), while California's domestic partnerships apparently had some differences from marriage.

I don't see why that should matter. From what I've read about the prop 8 ruling, that should make the opinion more applicable, if anything.

Second, Proposition 8 was about overturning a law that had already come into force, where the Washington referendum mechanism would act to postpone the law until a popular vote had taken place (see Referendum 71 for a prior example).

Ah, I didn't realize that could happen. That's somewhat discouraging, since it seems to indicate there's a good chance this law might never go into effect.
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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Ghostbear » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:54 am UTC

Lucrece wrote:Maryland and New Jersey are also headed for the passage of a marriage equality bill.

Bit of a mini-necro, but Maryland's law has made it through the state house and senate, and only needs to be signed by the governor (who apparently sponsored the law in the first place) to become law. And of course, because you can never get just good news, they're trying to get a referendum for the law already. And Christie Vetoed NJ's law. Still, some progress is better than none.

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Re: Possible marriage equality law in Washington state

Postby Carnildo » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:16 am UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:
Second, Proposition 8 was about overturning a law that had already come into force, where the Washington referendum mechanism would act to postpone the law until a popular vote had taken place (see Referendum 71 for a prior example).

Ah, I didn't realize that could happen. That's somewhat discouraging, since it seems to indicate there's a good chance this law might never go into effect.


Bit of a followup here: the bill passed, the referendum got enough signatures, the voters decided that the legislature made the right decision anyway, and I've been watching same-sex pairings show up in the "legal records" section of the local newspaper from time to time (for whatever reason, female-female marriages seem to be about three times as common as male-male).


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