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A step towards equality in Washington state

Sometimes I really love living in Washington state. This is one of those times.

Yesterday, Governor Christine Gregoire expressed her support for a legislative bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.

I’m so grateful to her for doing this. Why?

  • First, the obvious: arguments against legalizing same-sex marriage are unjust, unfair, and untenable. Often, the only support offered for such arguments arise from personal emotional objections to the issue and/or an individual’s homophobia/bigotry. And, although this shouldn’t need to be said, unfortunately it does: gays and lesbians are not second-class citizens. They deserve equal treatment under the law. Period.
  • Second: she’s taking a big risk here. Sadly enough, politicians who publicly support the legalization of same-sex marriage sometimes face a backlash that can jeopardize their careers.
  • Third: as she explained yesterday, because of her religious beliefs (she’s a practicing Catholic), this decision hasn’t been an easy one for her:

“I have been on my own journey, I’ll admit that,” she said at a news conference announcing her support of a legalization bill that will be introduced next week.

“It has been a battle for me with my religion,” said Gregoire, who is Catholic.

The Democrat previously had supported efforts to expand the state’s current law on domestic partner rights for gay couples, but had not come out in favor of full marriage rights.

She obviously understands that civil rights should not be decided by public opinion (religious or otherwise) and has made it clear that her political position on this particular issue is not determined by either her religious beliefs or her private opinions. I admire her so much for that, and this quote makes me want to hug her:

“I’ve always been uncomfortable with the position I took publicly,” she said. “Then I came to realize, the religions can decide what they want to do, but it’s not OK for the state to discriminate.”

Yes, THIS. A million times this. In one brief quote, she both demonstrated her personal integrity and refuted the completely false claim that, if same-sex marriage were to be legalized, churches and other religious organizations would be required to approve, recognize, or perform these marriages. No: this is an issue of civil marriage rights and does not affect the freedom of religious groups in any way. Religious individuals and groups who oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage are and should be free to express their opposition in a myriad of ways, but their personal objections must not be allowed to impede the process of extending civil rights to all citizens, as Gregoire notes here.

Unfortunately, this bill will face many challenges, and, even if it does pass, there’s a possibility that it will be overturned through our state’s initiative and referendum process (I’m not a fan of initiatives/referendums, to say the least). In 2009, the domestic partnership law was almost overturned in a state-wide referendum (I wrote about it at the time).

Despite the challenges and the uphill battle to come, this is a big step towards equality, and I am extremely grateful to Governor Gregoire for the integrity, courage, and compassion she has shown. She’s awesome. :)


P.S.: this quote from the above-linked Seattle Times article is so very moving. It brought me to tears:

“It’s about damn time,” said 75-year-old John McCluskey of Tacoma, who attended the news conference with his partner of 53 years, Rudy Henry. The couple registered as domestic partners the first year that they could, in 2007.

“At our age, we don’t know how long we’ll be around,” he said. “We’d really like to get married.”

  1. Dan #

    Sounds like a decent and fair decision.

    But there is one thing that troubles me about this. How are we really deciding who should be allowed to marry?

    Is it something that we will allow between any consenting adults? That would be the only reasonable standard I can think of. But if so, then why is marriage only being modified to allow same sex marriage and not being further expanded to allow polygamy or any other arrangement as long as it is between consenting adults.

    Seems like there is an inconsistency here and this is more about tailoring a law to a particular group rather than getting the human rights aspect of it right.

    January 5, 2012
    • pete #

      Marriage is a contract between two individuals and the government. Exchanging an individual isn’t the same as multiplying the number of parties. That’s how people get divorced and remarried, they change out an individual for another (hopefully superior, maybe because it has inverse genitals, who knows?) individual. Addition is not multiplication. Just like marrying a man for me wouldn’t be the same as marrying my cat; all this consistency is sidestepping one’s moral qualms with apples for oranges logic fails. Getting it right means more teen suicide in the meantime. More hopeless lives of otherwise contributing members of society wasted by their confused morals leading them down darker paths than they should have to endure. How is any of that getting the human rights aspect “right”?

      January 6, 2012
    • Functional Atheist #

      Personally, I would prefer that the government get entirely out of the marriage business, and replace legal marriage with domestic partnership contracts that would extend the legal protections and benefits currently given to married couples to a variety of consensual, adult, domestic relationships.

      For example, if two adult siblings share a home (but not a bed), why not allow them to register as domestic partners with the legal benefits currently given to married couples? Why not allow two adults to contract to a ten year partnership, which would dissolve unless both consent to an extension? Or why not plural relationships, where, for example, two bisexual men and one straight woman could formalize a domestic relationship among themselves?

      The notion that only sexual relationships, and only couples, should be able to enter into legally acknowledged domestic partnerships, and that such relationships should always be ‘until death do us part’, is antiquated.

      None of this is intended as some kind of straw man argument against gay marriage. I definitely agree with Miranda that Governor Gregoire’s proposal for marriage equality should be applauded and supported. But extending marriage equality to same sex couples need not be the end of the conversation…

      January 6, 2012
      • pete #

        I agree with all of this, Functional. Best of all worlds being what it would be.

        January 7, 2012

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