State Senator Ed Murray and Representative Jim Moeller introduced legislation that would grant the freedom to marry to Washington State's thousands of gay and lesbian couples.
From a Valentines Day blog post on the Senator's site:
This Valentine's Day, Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said the night is darkest just before the dawn.
"Over the past several years, the Legislature and the public together have been steadily building a bridge to equality for gay and lesbian families," said Moeller. He noted the passage of civil rights legislation in 2006 protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing, and financial transactions, and then three successive years of securing broader and broader domestic partnership rights -- which included successfully withstanding a hostile referendum challenge at the ballot in 2009.
"We've made tremendous progress since 1998," Murray said. "Gay and lesbian families in Washington now enjoy the same state spousal rights that their married straight friends enjoy - except for the name 'marriage'. The recognition that their loving, lifelong commitment is no different from the loving, lifelong commitment of straight couples is the final step to achieving full equality. I believe the Legislature and the public are both ready to take that final step."
Passing the bill could be the easy part. If this bill does pass, there is little doubt that Washington voters would get the ultimate say.
It cost $2.5 million to protect the domestic partnership bill in 2009. It will cost at least $2.5 million to defend a marriage bill. Do you want to pitch in?
While Washington state still holds the title for being the only state to win an expansion of gay and lesbian rights at the ballot box, the marriage campaign will be more difficult.
Polling is on our side. An overwhelming majority of Washington voter's support relationship recognition.
During an interview this summer, Equal Rights Washington's Executive Director told me,
At the same time support for full marriage equality in Washington State has increased dramatically from 30% to 41% with another 23% of voters believing that gay and lesbian families should have all the rights and benefits of marriage.
Now our challenge is to help this 23% of voters understand that it is impossible to provide the rights and benefits of marriage to Washington's gay and lesbians citizens without providing marriage itself.
I don't think there is anyone in this state that is ready to face the voters in 2011. We have to win at the polls before an election even begins. However, the bill introduced on Monday helps inspire the important conversation we need to have with our neighbors. Posting the story to my Facebook feed inspired a conversation at work with a bunch of straight guys. They are all on board and are geared up for the chance to vote for the freedom to marry.
Equal Rights Washington and the coalition of organizations that support the freedom to marry are encouraging supportive people to come to a lobby day in Olympia on March 22. Additionally, Equal Rights Washington asks you to share the following petition.
Note: There has been discussion here and on other sites about the freedom to marry vs. workplace protections. In 2006 a bill was passed that protects Washington workers from employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, so for our state, marriage is the next major hurdle towards freedom.