Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington State:
2012-JAN: Public support for SSM. Referendum
The first GOP senator
supports SSM bill.
Public support for SSM:
There is reasonably strong public support for SSM. Nate Silver, statistician at the New York Times predicted in mid-2011 that if a referendum were held on election day 2012, the public in Washington State would defeat a SSM ban by a margin of between 5.5 and 9.6 percentage points, depending upon the statistical model used. These values are approximately equal to his predictions for the states of New York , Rhode Island and Oregon. 1
John Stang, writing for CrossCut.com said that Governor Christine Gregoire (D) compared:
"... ending discrimination against gays and lesbians to the ending of racial discrimination. The status quo on gay marriage, she said, is similar to the 'separate, but equal' aspects of race relations several decades ago. And she reminded her audience that interracial marriages were illegal in some states until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled otherwise in 1967 [Loving v. Virginia]."
"Moreover, she contended, registered domestic partners are not that same as married couples. 'When I talk about my marriage to Mike, I don't talk about a contract with legal obligations,' she said."
"Gregoire's children also played a role in her decision. She explained that her daughters' generation supports gay marriage in much that same way that the previous generation supported racial equality. 'I think it is time for the older generation to listen to our younger people,' she announced." 2
In her "State of the State" speech, she said:
"Let’s tell the children of our same-sex couples that their parents’ relationship is equal to all others in the state."
During an interview she said:
"I’m a lawyer, I’m a wife, I’m a mom, I’m governor. I’m also a Catholic, and I have struggled with this issue for the last seven years." [Regarding her own children, she said:]
"They’ve grown up with kids who’ve got two moms and two dads, and they just think this generation needs to get over it. ... In the middle of the night, I’d wake up and come up with an argument I heard and I would work through that argument. I think I’ve attacked straight on any argument that has been advanced on the subject. You can respect the rights of the churches to decide who they will marry, but at the same time you can’t sit here as governor and have somebody come into an office say, 'I want a [marriage] license,' and say, 'No, we’re going to discriminate. We’re from the state.' " 3
Back in the 1990's, Senator Rosemary McAuliffe (D) opposed an early bill to legalize SSM. Over time, she said:
"I met the families, I met the children of those families, and I had the realization that it is our responsibility to protect all of our citizens against discrimination." 3
She is now a co-sponsor of the new bill.
2011-OCT-31: Results of poll of Washington state voters released:
A total of 938 Washington state voters were asked their opinion about a number of questions by the Washington Poll between 2011-OCT-10 and 30. They were not asked directly whether they approved of SSM or not. They were asked the following question:
"Next year the legislature could pass a law allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married. If that happens, there could be a referendum in which voters would be
asked to approve or reject the law. If such a referendum were held today:
Would you vote YES -- that is, to keep a law in place allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry OR
Would you vote NO, against the law -- to make it so that gay and lesbian couples could not marry?
- Yes – keep law in place – strongly 47%
- Yes – keep the law in place – not strong 8%
- No – against the law – not strong 7%
- No – against the law – strongly 31%
- Undecided 7%
Overall results show 55% in favor of SSM; 38% opposed, and 7% undecided, for a margin of 17 percentage points -- the largest that we have seen ever among American polls on this topic. The poll's margin of error is ±3.2%. 4
Further analysis of the poll results reported additional data: Support for same-sex marriage was:
- 84% among Democrats; this is the highest result that we have seen of any sub-group on any poll to date.
- 24% among Republicans; this is one of the lowest results that we have seen. The state is obviously highly polarized.
- 54% among Independents
- 54% among men
- 58% among women
- 65% among persons aged 18 to 40
- 58% among persons aged 41 to 65
- 48% among persons over 65 5
Annual polls have indicated a steady increase in support for SSM between 2006 and the present time.
It would seem that any Democratic legislator who votes against the upcoming SSM bill and any Republican legislator who votes in favor of the bill will have a major risk of not being re-elected. This is every politician's nightmare: to alienate a significant percentage of the voters no matter how she or he votes.
2012-JAN-09: Washington lawyer files application for referendum to prohibit SSM:
Those who oppose marriage equality appear to assume that the bill to legalize SSM will become law. Their only available recourse is to initiate a citizens'' initiative to overturn the law by a referendum.
Lawyer Steven Pidgeon has filed a state initiative that would restore the restriction of marriage to one man and one woman in the event that SSM is approved by the Legislature. It would appear on the ballot on election day during 2012-NOV. 8
The proposed initiative must pass a few hurdles before it is approved to be placed on the ballot:
- The sponsor(s) of the initiative must submit the final language of the proposed initiative.
- It must be reviewed by the state Code Revisor who assigns a number to the initiative.
- The state Attorney General issues an official ballot title and description that summarizes the impact of the initiative.
- The sponsor(s) need to gather ballot signatures on 241,153 registered voters and deliver them on or before 2012-JUL-06.
Actually, the government recommends that the sponsor(s) collect at least 320,000 signature in order to allow for invalid signatures. 9
One important factor for same-sex couples to consider if they wish to marry is to make plans to marry as soon as possible when SSM becomes available. With the sizeable majority of Washington state voters in favor of SSM, the referendum would almost certainly be rejected. However, if tens of millions of dollars were poured into the state to show fear-based ads on TV, as has been done with other states, the referendum might possibly pass.
Those opposing marriage equality may be taking a serious risk by proceeding with this referendum. A major talking point by the National Organization for Marriage -- a group whose main function is to work against marriage for same-sex couples, and similar organizations -- is that all but one voter initiatives has gone against SSM to date. They total some 30 in total. Recent referendums have indeed gone against SSM but in steadily decreasing percentages. Since a referendum in Washington would probably fail, it would give a strong emotional blow to the anti-SSM groups. They would no longer be able to condemn "activist judges" who "legislate from the bench" or radical legislatures. They would have to face the fact that voters in a state upheld marriage equality.
2011-JAN-10: First Republican state senator announces support for SSM bill:
Republican state senator Steve Litzow became the first Republican in the Washington legislature to announce support for the new SSM bill.
“I am a traditional Republican. When you think about gay marriage, it’s the right thing to do and it’s very consistent with the tenets of being a Republican — such as individual freedom and personal responsibility." 6
Litzow also supports SSM because it is consistent with the Republican concept of minimizing government intrusions into peoples' lives.
"Cruisezone" posted a comment to a Seattle Times editorial saying:
"I reached out to Sen. Litzow about this matter last week, and was pleasantly surprised when he indicated his support. As he put it, the State 'should not take an active role in deciding what type of committed relationships are entitled to the protections and benefit of our state laws'."
"As one of his constituents, Sen. Litzow has indeed earned my respect and future votes for not towing the party line and doing what he believes is right. I would like to apologize now for not voting for you last time." 7
The editorial in the Seattle Times stated:
"Litzow of Mercer Island told The [Seattle] Times editorial board he plans to support this historic legislation. His announcement follows last week's decision by Gov. Chris Gregoire to introduce and push a law that affords gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits of marriage enjoyed by other couples.
If the legislation is approved — and it should be — Washington would become the seventh state in the country to act on this compelling civil-rights issue. ...
Litzow's decision will be a huge factor. He likely will take some heat from fellow Republicans, but his willingness to buck his party is commendable.
An individual lawmaker has thought an issue through and decided to take a stand. His announcement should prompt other Republicans to make the same decision. It is time to legalize same-sex marriage in this state.
Litzow's announcement helps Democrats and Republicans reach that milestone. Senators or representatives who have been waffling should step up and join him." 7
Within 48 hours, the article received 641 recommendations and 318 comments.
Most comments were positive.
References used in this essay:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Nate Silver,"The Future of Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Measures," FiveThirtyEight blog, 2011-JUN-29, at: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/
- "Washington's Senate will be the battleground for legalizing gay marriage ," Crosscut.com, 2012-JAN-04, at: http://crosscut.com/
- William Yardley, "With Bill, Washington State Shifts Its Views on Marriage," New York Times, 2012-JAN-16, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
- "2011 Washington Poll," The Washington Poll, 2011-OCT-31, at: http://www.washingtonpoll.org/ This is a PDF file.
- "2011 Washington Poll: A closer look at attitudes towards same-sex marriage," The Washington Poll, 2012-JAN-06, at: http://www.washingtonpoll.org/ This is a PDF file.
- Steve Williams, "GOP Senator Supports Washington Marriage Equality Bill," Care2, 2012-JAN-10, at: http://www.care2.com/
- "Republican Sen. Steve Litzow helps lead with gay-marriage support," Seattle Times, 2012-JAN-08, at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/
- "Elections and Voting," Washington Secretary of State, undated, at: http://www.sos.wa.gov/
- Pamela Prah, "Gay marriage question to appear on 2012 ballots," StateLine, 2012-JAN-12, at: http://www.stateline.org/
Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2011-NOV-15
Latest update: 2012-JAN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson