Washington Governor endorses marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

January 4th, 2012

The State of Washington has been on a slow and steady path towards fully marriage equality for several years.

In 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that its Defense of Marriage Act did not violate the state constitution. However, they also indicated that there is nothing within the constitution which prohibited the state from offering equal protection to all of its citizens. In April 10, 2007, the state began the process of doing just that, by passing a bill authorizing the creation of a registry for parters which granted eleven specific rights. The following year, on March 4, 2008, the legislature beefed up the registry with an additional 170 rights and on May 18, 2009 Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill which finalized the registry evolution by making Registered Partnerships to be the legal equivalent of marriage, with all of its rights, duties, and obligations.

Anti-gay activists countered by activating a clause in the Washington State Constitution which allows bills to be presented to the electorate for approval or veto. They began gathering signatures to place the decision of the legislature up to a public referendum. After a nail-biting verification process, the opponents of partner rights eked out the required 137,689 120,577 valid signatures with only about a thousand 1430 to spare.

This proved to be a Pyhrric victory, however, as on November 3, the voters in the state approved the law by 53% to 47%. This was particularly important because for the first time, “the people” had voted to increase rights, thus dispelling the ‘liberal legislators kowtowing to special interest groups’ meme.

Much of the campaign by those opposed to equality was based on portraying a vote for the enhanced partnerships as being a vote for gay marriage, hoping that such a comparison would result in a rejection of the law. This proved to be a strategy with one significant flaw; when the bill passed with such a significant margin, gay groups were able to then portray the election as a mandate for marriage itself.

However, any hope for full equality has been held up by one roadblock. Governor Gregoire has indicated an unwillingness to sign legislation granting gay couples the same language and process as heterosexual couples, saying that Washington was not yet ready for such a change. And lacking the votes to override a veto, the legislators have recognized the futility of that effort.

Until now. (Spokesman-Review)

Washington must end discrimination against same-sex couples, an emotional Gov. Chris Gregoire said this morning. She urged the Legislature to pass a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state without requiring churches to perform the service if their religious denomination objects.

We commend Gov. Gregoire on her evolution on this issue and welcome her support.

Brian Murphy (WS)

January 4th, 2012

You said that “(a)fter a nail-biting verification process, the opponents of partner rights eked out the required 137,689 valid signatures with only about a thousand to spare.”

One small correction on the signature numbers. The number of valid signatures that was required for Referendum 71 to get on the ballot was 120,577 and Protect Marriage Washington turned in 137,881 signatures (137,689 was an early approximation) of which just 122,007 were accepted and 15,874 were rejected.

Referendum 71 made it on the ballot by a margin of only 1,430 signatures. Your point stands that this is a very small margin.

Timothy Kincaid

January 5th, 2012

Thanks, Brian. Corrected.

Jay Jonson

January 5th, 2012

Another point about the signatures submitted for Referendum 71: it is likely that many of them were either fraudulently obtained or forged. That is one reason the proponents have fought so hard to prevent the release of the actual documents. (They recently lost.) I hope that someone will follow up now that the signatures are available to the public and initiate action against those who perpetrated the fraud.

Theo

January 5th, 2012

There is a bigger scandal about those R71 petitions and it doesn’t have to do with fast-talking or deceitful signature gatherers. The WA Secretary of State has a procedure by which he hires armies of temps to review the petitions. These temps get about 90 minutes of training and invariably produce a high error rate. The Secretary of State’s regular staff then double check the temp’s work, but ONLY the signatures that the temps rejected. The sigs that were erroneously accepted by the temps are not double checked and these continue to count towards certification.

This has the effect of skewing the result in favor of going on the ballot. In most cases, it doesn’t matter b/c the number of sigs is well above the minimum or alternative, clearly insufficient. But in a case like R71 when it was right on the borderline, the Secretary’s procedure almost certainly resulted in a fraudulent certification of R71 for the ballot. It is amazing to me that the WA media didn’t make more of this at the time or since.

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