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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) & domestic partnership in Washington State

Quotations and Timeline

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"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.

bullet"A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author. 

Timeline of developments:

bullet 1998: The Washington state legislature passed a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It restricts marriage within the state to the union of one man and one woman. Its constitutionality was upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2006.
bullet2004: Six same-sex couples attempted to obtain marriage licenses. They were refused and launched a lawsuit. For the first time, a U.S. court declared a DOMA act unconstitutional.
bullet2004: Eleven same-sex couples repeated the same sequence with the same result.
bullet2005: The Washington Supreme Court overturned both lawsuits, declaring the DOMA law constitutional.
bullet 2006: After three decades of effort, a civil rights bill for lesbians, gays and bisexuals was finally passed.
bullet 2007: The state legislature and governor passed a domestic partnership law. As of the start of 2012, almost 20,000 people were registered in domestic partnerships. It granted same-sex registered couples about two dozen rights compared to the hundreds of rights supplied by the states to opposite-sex married couples.
bullet 2008: Additional benefits, rights and protections were added to the domestic partnership law.

bullet 2009: The legislature and governor passed an enhanced domestic partnership law with all of the state's benefits and protections that had previously been a special privilege of opposite-sex married couples.

bullet 2009-NOV-03: Washington state voters went to the polls to vote on Referendum R-71. They narrowly authorized what is referred to as the "everything but marriage" bill. It gave to registered domestic partners the full set of the state's rights and privileges that had previously been given only to opposite-sex married couples . However, they did not receive what is perhaps the most important right: the right to call their relationship a marriage.  Also, they are currently denied the approximately 1,100 federal benefits because of the federal DOMA law.

bullet 2011: Polls indicate that most Washington state voters support same-sex marriage (SSM). The Seattle Times newspaper declared its support for SSM.

bullet 2012-JAN-24: A bill to legalize SSM in the Senate had 25 votes in support, the minimum needed to pass the bill. A corresponding bill in the House had 50 sponsors among the 98 representatives. The governor, Chris Gregoire (D) is an enthusiastic sponsor.

bullet 2012-FEB-08: State Rep. Maureen Walsh (R) from Walla Walla, WA deviated from her party's stance on SSM and delivered an improptu speech in the legislature. A video of her speech went viral with more than 2 million views. See the video.

bullet 2012-FEB-13: The Senate and House had passed the SSM bill. Governor Gregoire signed it into law.

bullet 2012-MAY-14: In a bid to repeal the SSM law, religious and social conservatives had mounted a petition to place Referendum R-74 on the ballot on election day in 2012-NOV to repeal the law. They had collected more that twice the number of signatures required. The Secretary of State announced that the referendum had been approved for inclusion on the ballot.


2012-OCT-14: With only about 3 weeks to go before election day, a total of five polls between 2011-MAY and 2012-SEP have sampled public opinion concerning Referendum R-74. All five indicate that most adults favor marriage equality and plan to vote against the referendum.  Further, each poll has shown a successive increase in support for SSM by two or three percentage points when compared to the previous poll. Two polls since still show a significant margin.

Date Agency Support SSM Oppose SSM Margin in favor of SSM
2011-MAY PPP*
+2 percentage points
2012-FEB PPP
+5 p.p.
2012-JUN PPP
+9 p.p.
2012-JUN Strategies 360
+21 p.p.
2012-SEP-08 Survey USA
+18 p.p.
2012-SEP-11 Elway Poll 1
+14 p.p.
~2012-OCT-2 Survey USA 2
+15 p.p.
2012-NOV-06 Election Day Results
+5.2 percentage points

* Public Policy Polling.


2012-AUG-27: Washington United for Marriage -- a group promoting marriage equality -- has collected over $6 million which will be mostly used to fund TV ads. The National Organization for Marriage -- a national group opposed to marriage for same-sex couples -- expects to raise about $4 million. Preserve Marriage Washington -- a local group who is also opposed to marriage equality -- has raised about a half million dollars. More details.


2012-SEP/OCT: The Roman Catholic Church is split on the topic of SSM. The heirarchy is very active and dedicated to repealing the SSM law. The Catholic laity is generally supportive of SSM at a higher level than the general population of Washington. The "Seattle Group," an organization of former priests, is supporting SSM. The position of active Catholic priests in the state is unknown; they are not free to express their opinions. More details.


2012-NOV-06: This was election day, when voting on Referendum R-74 was concluded. The voters upheld the SSM law by a narrow margin. Marriages will become available to loving, committed same-sex couples in the state of Washington for at least a while.


2012-DEC-06 at 12:01: When government offices open that day, couples will be able to purchase wedding licenses. If they become married, couples won't receive any additional state protections or financial benefits then they would receive with a registered partnership. However, they and their children will enjoy greatly improved status in the community by being able to legitimately call their relationship a marriage.

If current trends hold and the federal Defense of Marriage Act is finally declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, then married same-sex couples and their children will immediately benefit from an additional 1,150 or so federal protections and benefits which are currently restricted to only married opposite-sex couples.

References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Joni Balter, "Ballot measures hovering around 50 percent — way too close to call," Seattle Times, 2012-SEP-17, at:
  2. "Gay marriage, marijuana well ahead in poll," Seattle PI, 2012-OCT-05, at:
  3. "Wash. gay marriage law to be decided by voters,", 2012-OCT-13, at:

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Copyright © 2004 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-SEP-12
Latest update: 2012-NOV-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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