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Gay Marriage Looks More Likely in Washington State

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Wednesday Jan 4, 2012
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Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) recently announced her support for same-sex marriage and said she will back a bill that will legalize gay marriage in the state, the Seattle Times reported in a Jan. 4 article.

"Today, I’m announcing my support for a law that gives same-sex couples in our state the right to receive a marriage license in Washington - the same right given our heterosexual couples," Gregoire said. "It is time, it is the right thing to do, and I will introduce the bill to make it happen."

When Gregoire ran for governor in 2004, she stated that she did not believe that Washington was ready to support same-sex marriage but supported legal rights for gay couples.

"I have been on my own journey," she said. "I will admit that. It has been a battle for me with my religion. I have always been uncomfortable with the position that I have taken publicly. And then I came to realize the religions can decide what they want to do, but it is not ok for the state to discriminate."

Several LGBT civil rights organizations supported Greogire in her decision and say that it is the right step for equality.

"Governor Gregoire made it crystal clear why marriage equality matters and why the legislature should pass it this year," Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, a LGBT civil rights group, said in a statement. "She has shown tremendous leadership on this issue which affects so many of our friends, family and neighbors."

The president of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, also supported Greogoire’s actions.

"From coast to coast, more and more Americans are coming to appreciate the values they share with committed gay and lesbian couples: the desire to love, honor and protect the person they love," Solmonese said in a statement.

"By voicing their strong support for marriage equality, Governors Gregoire and Cuomo propel this issue forward. They confirm what most Americans already believe: committed gay and lesbian couples deserve the ability to marry and establish families protected by law."

The road to getting gay marriage legalized in Washington has not been so easy, however. In 2009, there was much controversy surrounding Referendum 71, a vote in which Washington state residents confirmed Senate Bill 5688, a law that extended rights to domestic partnerships.

In late July 2009, the organization Protect Marriage Washington, which opposes gay marriage, submitted 137,881 signatures to the Washington Secretary of State’s office but only 121, 757 were officially verified. The law stated that there had to be 120,577 valid signatures to qualify the referendum on the November 2009 ballot.

Under the state’s constitution citizens have 90 days to postpone the law but must gather the required number of signatures. Groups, including Equal Rights Washington and Washington Families Standing Together actively opposed putting such a referendum on domestic partnership on the ballot. Protect Marriage Washington worked for the initiative.

Voters approved the law, making it the first time in U.S. history that voters approved a state-wide ballot measure that extended LGBT relationship rights.

Despite attempts to prevent the LGBT community from gaining equality, EDGE reported in an April 1, 2011, article that Washington passed a law that recognizes domestic partnerships granted in other jurisdictions but it reduced them to just domestic partnerships.

Gay couples who visit the state from other parts of the country are protected by the law as well. Without it, same-sex couples would be legal strangers to each other.

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