While most politicos will be eyeing Florida today to see how Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich fair in the Republican presidential primary, the eyes of many LGBT people will be on New Hampshire and Washington State, the legislatures of which will both soon vote on the freedom to marry for same sex couples.
Three days after the New Year launched, on Jan. 4, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that she would introduce a bill to legalize marriage rights for same sex couples as soon as the legislature convened. The bill was fast-tracked and will receive its final floor vote in the state senate on Wednesday. Washington United for Marriage (via HRC ) put this out:
The Washington State Senate will vote on marriage equality legislation THIS WEDNESDAY, February 1 in Olympia. This is the key vote during the legislative session and we need a strong show of support for legislators. If you live in Washington, call your state senator today. Tell them to support the marriage equality legislation when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday. Click here to find your senator.
There is already a move to repeal the law if passed. And the National Organization for Marriage has already threatened any Republican legislators with a primary challenge if they vote for marriage. But on Monday, Jan. 30, NOM went a step further - slamming Starbucks for supporting the freedom to marry - and threatening the corporation with a made-up charge of discrimination against those who oppose same sex marriage:
"Americans should be able to drink a peaceful cup of coffee without worrying that a portion of the company's profits is going to be used to push gay marriage without a vote from the people," said NOM President Brian Brown. "This is a gratuitous leap into a hot button culture war issue; respect for diversity touted by Starbucks ought to include respecting the diverse views of all its customers and employees."
NOM pledged an intensive public relations effort to ask Starbucks customers who favor retaining marriage as the union of husband and wife to complain to company headquarters.
Jonathan Baker, head of NOM's Corporate Fairness Project, called on Starbucks to make it clear they will not discriminate against customers, vendors or employees who oppose same-sex marriage. "Increasingly, gay marriage extremists are arguing that people known to oppose same-sex marriage should not be hired, or even, should be fired. Diversity and tolerance are a two-way street. Having waded into a social issue where Starbucks has no special competence, the company has an obligation to reassure its customers, vendors and employees that it will respect the most important diversity--diversity of opinion," noted Baker.
If the legislation is approved and signed into law as expected, Washington would be the seventh state in the nation to legalize gay marriage, after Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.
But New Hampshire is facing its own travails with the GOP right wingers as that state votes on whether to repeal the state's marriage equality law expected some time in the near future. From Towleroad:
The Concord Monitor has a detailed story out today about the various forces arrayed for and against the repeal of marriage equality in New Hampshire. Interestingly, the decisive votes are likely to arise from within the state's Republican party. Despite a veto-proof majority in both houses of the state legislature, and despite an official party-line definition of marriage that excludes same-sex unions, Republicans are worried -- indeed, seem almost certain -- that the repeal's a no-go.
Interestingly, former antigay closeted RNC chair Ken Mehlman chimed in to support Republicans supporting gay marriage in New Hampshire. Here's an excerpt from his Jan. 26, op-ed in the Union Leader:
"Live Free or Die" isn't just the official motto for a great state. As the 62nd Republican National Committee Chairman, I think it's a mantra our party should live by. I hope that New Hampshire legislators will remember this slogan and reject proposals to strip citizens of their right to marry.
The party of Lincoln and Reagan should stand first and foremost for freedom. It's part of our heritage and ought to be part of our DNA. Freedom for Americans of all races is why our party was founded. And our greatest moments -- from the unbelievable economic recovery unleashed by lower taxes and less regulation to the fall of the Berlin Wall -- resulted when we promoted freedom.
Stripping away the right of adults in New Hampshire to marry the person they love is antithetical to freedom. If we really believe (and we should) that every citizen is endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness, shouldn't this include the right to marriage? If we believe in limited government, how can we justify expanding the authority of the state to take away this most personal, fundamental right? Aren't politicians already too involved in too much of our lives? Why would we want to expand government to such a personal space?
Allowing New Hampshire citizens to marry the person they love isn't just consistent with maximizing freedom. It also promotes responsibility, commitment and stability; it promotes family values. Again, our history provides a good road map: One of our party's finest hours was the passage of welfare reform because it strengthened families and promoted marriage. Why would we want to take away this right from anyone?
(Crossposted at LGBT POV)