Washington Governor endorses marriage equality
January 4th, 2012
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.
Marriage Opponents Lose Pursuit Of Special Rights
October 21st, 2011
It’s been a bad week for the National Organization for Marriage. Two separate courts this week ruled against NOM’s attempt to enshrine a special right to flout laws intended to lend transparency to the electoral process. The first loss came on Monday when Federal Judge Benjamin Settle ruled in Doe v Reed (PDF: 112KB/34 pages) that the state of Washington must disclose the names of citizens who signed the petition putting Referendum 71 on the ballot. Protect Marriage Washington, a NOM affiliate, sued to block the release in a bid to stake a special exemption to Washington’s campaign disclosure laws, claiming that signatories would be subject to threats and harassments. Judge Settle rejected that claim:
While Plaintiffs have not shown serious and widespread threats, harassment, or reprisals against the signers of R-71, or even that such activity would be reasonably likely to occur upon the publication of their names and contact information, they have developed substantial evidence that the public advocacy of traditional marriage as the exclusive definition of marriage, or the expansion of rights for same sex partners, has engendered hostility in this state, and risen to violence elsewhere, against some who have engaged in that advocacy. This should concern every citizen and deserves the full attention of law enforcement when the line gets crossed and an advocate becomes the victim of a crime or is subject to a genuine threat of violence. The right of individuals to speak openly and associate with others who share common views without justified fear of harm is at the very foundation of preserving a free and open society.
The facts before the Court in this case, however, do not rise to the level of demonstrating that a reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisals exists as to the signers of R-71, now nearly two years after R-71 was submitted to the voters in Washington State.
That was on Monday. To bookend the week perfectly, Federal Judge Morrison England, Jr., today issued a bench ruling denying ProtectMarriage.com and NOM’s quest for a special right to withhold the release of campaign finance records related to the passage of Propositon 8 three years ago. Judge England said that the groups failed to prove that they should be exempt from campaign finance laws which are designed to protect the public during expensive initiative campaigns.
Judge England is expected to issue a written ruling later.
Seattle Couple Threatened
September 26th, 2011
God Hates F*gs!
Get the f**k out of our neighborhood.
The bible says God forbids men committing indecent act with other men.
Pack up your sh*t and get you gay sh*t out.
We thought it was the cat. We thought it was sprinklers going off,” he said.
Ten minutes later, they heard the same sound again.
“I flew open the blinds in our bedroom and that’s when I saw shadows running down the street,” Ilovar said, “And I went, ‘Okay, something’s up.'”
While police reports officially call this an act of property damage and malicious harassment, the Evans and Ilovar said it’s pretty clear from the message left behind that this was a hate crime.
The suspect or suspects slashed all the tires on both men’s cars, as well as throwing two baseball-sized rocks — one through Ilovar’s passenger-side window, one through Evans’ rear windshield.
The couple have reportedly installed a new security system in their home the very next day. They have also installed a flagpole adorned with a rainbow flag.
Second Indian Tribe adopts marriage equality
August 2nd, 2011
In 2008 marriage equality established itself in southern Oregon. Now Washington State can be the site for same-sex marriages as well. Provided, of course, that you are a registered member of the appropriate Indian tribe.
The Tribal Council held a public hearing on the ordinance change in June and formally adopted it in a unanimous vote Monday.
The new law allows the tribal court to issue a marriage license to two unmarried people, “regardless of their sex,” if they at least 18 years old and at least one of them is an enrolled member of the Suquamish Tribe.
Washington State House bill to recognize out-of-state marriages
February 18th, 2011
OOOOPS: I think I misread the bill. It would recognize out of state marriages as domestic partnerships within the state. So the rest of this commentary is not useful.
The House of Representative in State of Washington is posed to perform an odd act: recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages but not those conducted within the state. While the state offers domestic partnership which is identical to marriage in rights and obligations – a law confirmed by a vote of the people – it does not yet offer full marriage recognition.
The state House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved legislation under which Washington sate would legally recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere.
Seven Democrats on the committee voted for the bill and six Republicans voted against it. The bill now moves to the House floor. It has 55 co-sponsors, enough for a majority in a floor vote.
A bill which would have allowed recognition of in-state same-sex marriages did not make it out of committee on Thursday, the final day to do so. It is not certain why the out-of-state bill is assured passage while the local marriage one is not, but it may have to do with the difficulty that anti-gay activists will have in whipping up opposition to recognizing the laws of other states and countries.
Should the bill pass, it would appear that Washingtonians will be able to cross the border into Canada, marry there, and return with the full recognition of the state. This will add to the hodge-podge of laws ranging from full recognition of other states’ marriages but no local recognition at all (New York and New Mexico) to a date-based window of recognition of both instate and out-of-state marriages (California) to the various states which convert out-of-state marriages into civil unions upon entry (Hawaii and others) to outright bans on all recognition (most states).
Couple recognition, state by state
December 1st, 2010
Upon the governor’s signature, Illinois will become the second state that is currently offering civil unions to same-sex couples. The status of the various recognition mechanisms is as follows:
Marriage on the same terms as heterosexual marriage – 5.1% of US Population:
District of Columbia
Civil Unions – a rights except the name – 7.1% of US Population:
Domestic Partnerships will all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population
Limited recognition of same-sex couples – 6.2% of US Population
Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits
Colorado – Reciprocal Benefits
Wisconsin – Domestic Partnerships
Maine – Domestic Partnerships
Maryland – Domestic Partnerships
In addition, the states of Maryland and New York (6.4% of US Population) will give full recognition to same-sex marriages conducted where legal. Rhode Island may possibly do so also (it’s a bit uncertain) and offers unregistered Domestic Partnerships with a scant handful of rights.
Also, there are dozens of cities offer some form of recognition and protection for same-sex couples.
Watchmen On the Walls to Gather in Sacramento and Washington State
September 27th, 2010
A Sacramento-area reader tipped us to this flier advertising a Watchmen On the Walls conference that is scheduled for Oct 1-3 at the New Hope Christian fellowship near Sacramento. The conference will feature Latvian pastor Alexey Ledyaev, who cofounded the Watchmen with Seattle-based pastor Ken Hutcherson, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, and Sacramento resident and Russian language media owner Vlad Kusakin. The Watchmen On the Walls has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of only about a dozen anti-gay hate groups.
Also appearing on the bill are Craig Carre of Gate Keepers and Alex Rykhlyuk of the Sacramento-based church Ecclesia, which mainly caters to the substantial Russian Evangelical immigrant community in Sacramento. The Russian Evangelical immigrant community has been among the most virulent anti-gay communities in California, and, along with Russian immigrants in the Seattle area, has provided leaders who have been an integral part of Watchmen On the Walls.
Alexeyev’s Riga-based megachurch, New Generation, was implicated of a violent confrontation during a Riga Pride event in 2006 when a churchmember was convicted of throwing feces at participants. Alexeyev and twenty other churchmembers were in the courtroom in support of the church member when he was convicted.
The conference is mentioned in the Watchmen’s official web site, but only in the Russian language version. That brief article mentions the Sacramento conference along with another one for Washington State in “early October.” No further details are given.
Anti-gay petition names made public
June 24th, 2010
Within the past few years there has been a push to publicize the names of those who sign anti-gay petitions. This does not sit well with anti-gay activists who count on anonymity to collect signatures and get propositions on ballots.
People are less likely to add their name if they think that their neighbor, the lady who bags their groceries, or the guy who mows their law will know that they did so. It is far easier to harm those around you if can do so secretly.
So when the state of Washington was ready to release the names of the signatories for Referndum 71, a petition to block domestic partnership rights, anti-gay activists sued. They claimed that they have a first amendment right to free speech and that they have the right to make this speech anonymously. The state countered that they need transparency in elections and that those who seek to legislate laws must be visible and accountable.
Much of the argument on the part of anti-gays was that the identities of those who signed the petition must be kept secret to shield them from the ookie-spookie gays who are hostile and violent. They claimed that they might lose customers if those customers learned that they wanted to deny them equality or that they might face disapproval from neighbors or others who learned of their efforts to enshrine discrimination.
It now appears, however, that the US Supreme Court did not find that argument convincing. (SeattlePI)
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the names of people who signed petitions in an attempt to overturn a new gay rights law in Washington must be made public, a victory for state officials who said the case was a test of open government laws.
So soon the names will be available. Use them responsibly and with restraint.
Update (Jim Burroway): If I read the decision correctly (PDF: 383KB/67 pages), it looks like the Supreme Court only ruled on whether the requirement for disclosure violates the first amendment:
But the question before the Court at this stage of the litigation is whether disclosure of referendum petitions in general violates the First Amendment. Faced with the State’s unrebutted arguments that only modest burdens attend thedisclosure of a typical petition, plaintiffs’ broad challenge to the PRA (the Washington Public Records Act) must be rejected. But upholding the PRA against a broad-based challenge does not foreclose success on plaintiffs’ narrower challenge inCount II, which is pending before the District Court.
According to the Supreme Court Opinion, “Count II of the complaint alleges that ‘[t]he Public Records Act is unconstitutional as applied to the Referendum 71 petition because there is a reasonable probability that the signatories of the Referendum 71 petition will be subjected to threats,harassment, and reprisals.'” That challenge appears to still be working its way through the lower courts.
Court hearing doesn’t go well for Washington anti-gay petition signatories
April 28th, 2010
Last year anti-gay activists in Washington State collected signatures to get a referendum on the ballot challenging the legislature’s domestic partnership laws. The people subsequently voted to keep the laws recognizing gay couples.
But one of the issues that arose from that action was the question as to whether signatures on petitions – specifically anti-gay petitions – were public information or or protected anonymous political speech. Supporters of the petition argued that they were skurrrred of the evil gays who might take their business to a more supportive company or might frown at them in the supermarket.
And so a judge blocked the releasing of the info. The Secretary of State appealed the decision arguing that the State had an interest in open air laws. The decision was overturned, appealed again, and now is being argued in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Anti-gay activists want all public disclosure laws declared to be unconstitutional and to conduct their animus behind the veil of anonymity.
But today did not go well for them. Justices, including at least one who is inclined to be sympathetic to conservative causes, were not much impressed by their arguments. (AP)
Several justices questioned whether people who voluntarily signed a petition asking for a public referendum could then expect privacy. They were concerned that keeping the names of petitioners private might invalidate other vital open records like voter registration rolls or lists of donors to political candidates.
“Running a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage,” said Justice Antonin Scalia, who also called the arguments to keep the names private “touchy-feely.”
On the other hand, Justice Alito was there to go to bat for the anti-gays.
But Justice Samuel Alito questioned Washington’s attorney general, Robert McKenna, on whether his office was willing to give out the home address of its lawyers so people could show up and have “uncomfortable conversations” with them after-hours.
McKenna said office addresses and telephone numbers of his lawyers were public.
But Alito appeared to be in the minority (Wall Street Journal)
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned the relevance of that precedent. She and Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that making public the names of petition signers could allow people to verify whether the signatures were real.
Chief Justice John Roberts suggested the court was unlikely to strike down the law on its face, but might find that in some circumstances names should be withheld if the signers could show they faced a threat.
I would hope that this would be a real threat, not an irrational fear based on imagined concerns.
Nearly half of all Americans live where there is some recognition of same-sex couples
March 3rd, 2010
About 5.1% of Americans (15.5 million) live in areas in which same-sex marriages are legal and equal to opposite-sex marriages: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia.
Another 58.4 million (19.2%) live in states which have either civil unions or domestic partnerships that offer all the rights and protections of marriage without the name: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington. To that we can add two more states (New York and Maryland) in which the local state government will honor marriage occurring elsewhere and we have a total of 32.6% of Americans living with the rights and responsibilities of marriage available to their family.
There are also five states which recognize same-sex couples and offer them limited itemized rights. They are Hawaii, Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, and Rhode Island and they add an additional 14.2 million Americans (4.7%).
But recognition does not stop there. There are dozens more counties and cities who provide what local recognition and benefits as they can, adding another 14.2 million local residents (4.7% of Americans) who can appreciate that their city officials see them as a couple. Local municipalities include the populations of Salt Lake City, UT; Phoeniz AZ; Tuscon AZ; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; Lawrence, KS; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Lewis, MO; Ann Arbor, MI; Cook County, IL (Chicago); Urbana, IL; Cleveland, OH; Cleveland Heights, OH; Toledo, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Harrisburg, PA; El Paso, TX; Travis County, TX (Austin); Eureka Springs, AK; New Orleans, LA; Carrboro, NC; Chapel Hill, NC; Clarke County, GA (Athens); Fulton County, GA (Atlanta); Broward County, FL (Fort Lauderdale); Key West, FL; Miami-Dade County, FL; and West Palm Beach, FL.
In total about 140 million Americans – about 46% of the nation’s population – live where there is some form of official notice of same-sex couples. So NOM can proclaim “victory” when they have an election in California or Maine, but this ball is rolling and the momentum is in the direction of recognition.
SCOTUS to decide if WA’s Referendum 71 signatories to be made public
January 16th, 2010
Although the voters in the state of Washington have long since elected to reaffirm the legislature’s decision to provide Domestic Partner benefits equal to marriage to same-sex couples, the issue over whether the signatories are public information is still unresolved. On Friday the Supreme Court announced that it would take up the issue. (LA Times)
The high court will consider whether Washington state officials can release more than 138,500 names on a petition seeking a vote on overturning the state’s domestic partnership rights.
Protect Marriage Washington, which unsuccessfully opposed the law giving gay couples expanded rights, wants to shield from disclosure the signers of the petition for a referendum on that law. The group says it fears harassment by gay rights supporters, some of whom have vowed to post signers’ names on the Internet.
The objection to making the names public is based on the often asserted but rarely supported reports of “threats”, “intimidation”, and “retaliation”.
In case you don’t speak the lingo of anti-gay activists, “retaliation” is when gay customers find out that the profits from their purchases are being used to take away their rights and freedoms and refuse to continue to patronize the business establishments that harm them. “Intimidation” is when gay citizens, their friends, and their families discover that their neighbors want to harm them and consequently snub, shun, or speak disparagingly to those who are actively trying to harm their lives.
“Threats” tend not to exist at all outside of vague and highly improbable internet venting or solely in the fevered imagination of those who want to see themselves as victims.
Anti-gays genuinely believe that gay people should be barred from knowing who seeks to do them harm and, if they should find out, are not entitled to object.
December 3rd, 2009
Today Washington State’s Senate Bill 5688 goes into effect. It was this bill, which upgrades Domestic Partnerships to contain all the rights, privileges, responsibilities and obligations of marriage, which was threatened by Referendum 71.
On November 4th, the voters of Washington State declared that they support full rights and responsibilities for same-sex couples.
Referendum 71 Update – 11/5
November 5th, 2009
As of today at 6:30 pm,
Approved: 697,032 – 52.05 %
Rejected: 642,176 – 47.95 %
There are presently about 220,000 unprocessed ballots and a more postmarked by Tuesday may come in over the next few days.
Several news sources are calling it a win.
Washington Ref 71 Update
November 4th, 2009
Returns continue to trickle in for Washington’s vote-by-mail election, in which voters are asked to uphold that state’s Domestic Partnership registry. The Washington office of Secretary of State reports as of 5:47 pm PST:
Approve: 573,698 — 51.82%
Reject: 533,488 — 48.18 %
The Day After Election Day
November 4th, 2009
Feelings will be running raw this morning. Having yet another state placing a portion of its own citizenry in the second-class column is never easy to take. There will be plenty of time for post-mortems; I guess you could say I’ve already gotten a jump on mine before the campaign was over.
But I think it’s very important to keep in mind what Protect Maine Equality has been able to do. They have put together one of the most outstanding grass-roots efforts I’ve ever seen in a political campaign, and for that they’ve provided a road map for future campaigns to follow. Nobody has done a better job at motivating thousands of individuals to give of their time, and nobody has put together a better get-out-the-vote effort. The fact that the vote was this close is a testament to those great accomplishments.
Meanwhile, we have an important victory in Kalamazoo, where the religious right pulled out all the scare tactics at their disposal to try to defeat a non-discrimination ordinance. It didn’t work. The ordinance was upheld by 7,671 to 4,731 — 62% voted for equality in Kalamazoo, which is now the sixteenth city in Michigan with a non-discrimination ordinance.
Meanwhile, Washington’s Referendum 71 is holding on by a razor-thin margin. The Seattle Times says that it looks promising, since most of the outstanding votes are in areas where the measure was passing. Washingtonians vote by mail, and since the law requires that ballot be postmarked by election day, they will continue to trickle in during the days to come.
In Houston, openly lesbian mayoral candidate Annise Parker will go up against Gene Lock for a December 12 runoff. Openly gay Mark Kleinschmidt was elected mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Charles Pugh garnered the highest number of Detroit city council votes among all the city-wide at-large candidates to become that city’s first gay city council president. And in New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia, legislative battles are heating up for marriage equality.
There are steps forward and steps back. The struggle isn’t over. We lost this one, but we pick ourselves up and go on to the next one. Our community has forged a unique strength that way, and we’ve learned to do this in ways we didn’t want to, whether it was to respond to Governmental censorship, employment bans, Anita Bryant, the AIDS crisis when nobody else could be bothered, or these state-by-state ballot initiatives. They do wear us down, but they don’t wear us out. We pick each other up, dust ourselves off, and we go on to the next battle. It’s what we do.