Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Washington left behind on marriage equality

Last week Iowa's Supreme Court ruled that Iowa's state constitution prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples with respect to the institution of marriage. Iowa! In the middle of the heartland!

Yesterday, Vermont's legislature overrode governor Jim Douglas's veto of a marriage equality bill. Vermont thus joins Iowa, Massachusetts, and Connecticut as the fourth state to fully recognize legal marriage for same-sex couples. (Note, though, that Iowa's court ruling won't take effect for a few weeks yet). Washington D.C. followed up with a city council ruling that recognizes same-sex marriages sanctioned in other states.

California's supreme court, last spring, made world-wide headlines when it found that marriage is a fundamental civil right that and may not be statutorally prohibited. There followed a shining period of a few months when tens of thousands of gay and lesbian couples, like celebs like Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, wed each other before the Mormon- and Catholic-backed Proposition 8 took that right away again. That issue is now pending in the California courts again, where the state supreme court seems likely to overturn it.

Monday, there were three states with full marriage equality for all. Today, there are four. Internationally, the list of pro-love jurisdictions also includes Canada, Spain, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

I applaud the open-minded, compassionate hearts and minds in all those places who recognize that love is love, no matter the genders involved.

It is wonderful progress.

But with every step, Washington State is left further and further behind.

We're already behind these leading lights elsewhere in the world. South Africa, which just as recently as the 1980s didn't even have basic racial equality, now has marriage equality while our own legislature is only now working on a civil unions bill! Civil unions are a step in the right direction, but they are at best a "separate-but-equal" half measure that will appease some, displease others, but will make no one truly happy or truly equal.

Our state's laws also lag behind its citizens' values. Nate Silver, over at, recently posted a very interesting analysis of same-sex marriage bans nationwide.

Nate, whose predicitons and numbers in the presidential race last year were better than anybody else's (by far), finds that Washingtonians would probably reject a same-sex marriage ban if one were put on the ballot this year.

I love my state. I choose to live here for a lot of reasons, many of which I know our gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters share.

I hope they stay in the Evergreen State. But boy, if I were a gay or lesbian Washingtonian, it would be hard not to be thinking about moving to a state with truly equal civil rights for me.


Blogger Sean said...

As a married gay person in my mid 20s, I have to admit it's fast becoming my primary consideration when considering where to start our family.

I am very unhappy that Washington can't offer me marriage, as it is a very nice state in other aspects.

April 9, 2009 12:18 AM  
Blogger Marina said...

It's just the way politics in Washington State works--we could pass it now, but I seriously doubt it will happen until 2013 or so, because for all that the conservatives scream that they're being oppressed here, the simple fact is that the Washington State democratic party has always been enormously reluctant to use the power it wields.

I grew up here and spent my life here, with only a few absences of a year at a time at most, and now at the age of twenty-six I'm moving in with my girlfriend in Vancouver WA, only like the fifth place I've lived in the state which I love beyond all other things--but though I cannot get married here, I'll be remaining in the state short of my work taking me elsewhere. I value the distinctive and tolerant culture of Washington State more than anything, even as I know that in the same fashion it leads to the governing style which makes us move with Fabian slowness on this crucial issue.

That said I do have a vague hope that it might be possible to bring marriage onto the table sooner here, but when it comes down to it let's remember, too, that though our law is imperfect, queer people are accepted as human beings in Washington State. A piece of paper is, I fear, a thin protection against the religiously-fanned flames of real, dehumanizing hatred which are still prevalent in the heartland. It's shameful, but also predictable, for Washington to have not yet acted, but it's not a reason to abandon the state.

Among other things, we at least have the confidence of knowing it will be impossible for gay marriage to be banned here once it's been legalized--after all, our constitutional amendment process actually protects the constitution from simple majorities. I was just shocked to find out how easy it was to amend the constitutions of other states, and I'm very proud that the founders of our state had the sense to require a 2/3rds vote in each chamber of our state legislature before sending a measure on to the people. And it'll be a cold day in hell when 2/3rds of both houses of the Washington State legislature vote to ban gay marriage, especially now, so we can at least be confident that the horrendous situation in California will never come to pass here when we finally get around to catching up with the rest of the world.

Speaking of which, Nepal is also legalizing gay marriage, which is honestly much bigger of a shocker than South Africa.

April 10, 2009 12:15 AM  

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