Washington State headed toward gay marriage: a sign of shifting attitudes
Lawmakers voted to make Washington the seventh state to allow gay marriage. Opponents vow to force the measure onto the November ballot, but obtaining a voter veto of the new law will be an uphill battle.
For supporters of same-sex marriage in the United States, it’s been a good week.Skip to next paragraph
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The Washington House of Representatives voted 55 to 43 Wednesday to approve gay marriage. The State Senate already had passed the measure 28 to 21, and Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), who calls it “a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation,” will sign the bill.
The history of the Washington State bill mirrors the shift in public and political attitudes toward gay marriage around the country.
In 1998, state lawmakers passed a Defense of Marriage Act declaring marriage to be a union between a man and a woman. In 2006, a state civil rights measure specifically including protections based on sexual orientation passed for the first time. The next year, a domestic partnership law was enacted, and in 2009 voters approved expanding that law to include everything but marriage.
The new gay marriage law was approved largely along party lines. Just two Republicans voted for it, and two Democrats voted against it. Prominent companies in the Pacific Northwest – including Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks – publicly support same-sex marriage and endorsed the bill. (Some conservative Christian organizations launched a boycott of Starbucks as a result.)
But there won’t be an immediate rush to the altar.
The measure takes effect in 90 days, but before then opponents vow to collect the necessary 120,000 signatures to send the question to the voters as a November ballot question. The move would put the new law on hold until the vote.
But the effort to obtain what is, in effect, a voter veto of the new law could be an uphill fight.
A recent University of Washington survey finds increasing support for same-sex marriage. The number of people who say they support gay marriage has increased from 30 percent to 43 percent over the past five years, and another 22 percent say same-sex couples should have exactly the same rights as married couples do today without calling it “marriage.”