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washington state says yea ... for now

February 13, 2012

Gregoire signs same-sex marriage bill - seattlepi.com

An emotional Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation Monday making Washington the seventh state to legalize marriage between same-sex couples, declaring it was time "to make history in this great state." Gregoire's voice broke as she descrbed conversations with her two daughters, who told her that marriage equality was "the civil rights issue of their generation . . . Thank you to that younger generation and my two daughters." The governor presided at a ceremony in Olympia, joined by legislative leaders and the longtime same-sex partners of such lawmakers as Sen. Ed Murray and Reps. Jamie Pedersen and Laurie Jinkins.

The law goes into effect on June 7, unless opponents succeed in gathering 120,577 valid voter signatures to force a referendum in November. If so, marriage equality would be held up pending a decision by Washington voters.

Gregoire predicted that Washington, for the second time, would vote to ratify a major piece of gay/lesbian civil rights legislation. Washington voted in favor of Referendum in 2009, becoming the first state to ratify an "everything but marriage" domestic partner law. "Washington will say yes because a family is a family," Gregoire declared. "It is time to give our loving gay and lesbian couples a chance to have a married life in the state of Washington...."

It really is going to be interesting to see what happens after this.

I would be astonished if the anti-gay-marriage crowd fails to get enough signatures to put this onto the ballot. That said, if they do succeed, I hope the pro-gay-marriage crowd takes it into court prior to the vote on the grounds that a known hostile majority should not be allowed to vote to recognise the rights of a known-to-be-discriminated-against minority. (Though, to be fair, I'm not sure that argument is precisely a constitutional argument, either under the Washington state or federal constitutions. I would think that you'd be able to get the courts to invoke heightened scrutiny, though.)

What I found interesting, though, was a side comment somewhere: approximately 42% of people in this country now live in a state where gay marriage is legal. Of course, that's primarily due to California and New York, and it's not precisely legal in California at the moment. It's also due to the fact that our population is heavily concentrated in only a few areas; there are only seven states plus DC where gay marriage is legal; another 41 where, one way or another, the state has said, "NO! NO MARRIAGE FOR YOU, ICKY GAY PEOPLES!", either through constitutional amendment or some other law. Weirdly, several of those states grant something vaguely like civil union status. (If the argument proposed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals winds up holding some sort of resonance nationwide, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland and Maine will be told at some point that they can't have it both ways -- you can't say that something like marriage is fine, but marriage itself is not.) There are also two (yes, TWO), where the state constitutions and any specifically exclusionary laws are, for the moment, utterly silent: New Jersey and New Mexico.

New Jersey is trying to pass a law allowing gay marriage, but will fail due to the governor's promised veto and desire to take the issue to the people. (He is also under the thoroughly wrong-headed idea that blacks would have welcomed a vote on civil rights during the civil rights era. About as spectacularly stupid a concept as one could come up with, and not one that ought to be said while there are still black people old enough to remember the time, because they will set you straight on that.) New Jersey also has civil union status, stronger than that of the above-mentioned states, thanks to their state supreme court, so again assuming that the logic of the 9th Circuit's decision holds (and it probably won't, in the Third Circuit, but let's pretend), New Jersey will eventually be told that its denial of marriage rights is not a tenable position.

In New Mexico, their state attorney general said last year that under current law, while such marriages could not be conducted in the state, such marriages performed elsewhere would be recognized as valid under current state law. In response, a a member of the state house of representatives submitted a bill to amend the state constitution to make gay marriage invalid. Oddly, less than 24 hours from the bill's first hearing in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, he withdrew the bill from consideration. From what the article says, it's not at all clear why. Without that, they'll remain in this peculiar legal position. Since they don't have civil unions, assuming that they continue to remain silent on the subject ... well. I'll tell you what'll happen: assuming that the various DOMA decisions don't intervene, some gay couple will move to the state, have a falling out, then try to divorce. And with an advisory position on the books saying that the state must recognize such out-of-state marriages, the state will be forced to grant the divorce. And that, as they say, will be the Thin End of the Wedge.

Posted by iain at February 13, 2012 05:02 PM







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