Washington ‘on the brink of history’ with passage of marriage bill

Washington state is poised to become the seventh state to allow same-sex couples to marry, following the state House’s passage today of a marriage equality bill by a 55-43 vote. The measure cleared the state Senate last week by a 28-21 vote, and Gov. Christine Gregoire is expected to sign it.

Rainbow flag flying on the Space Needle during Seattle Pride.

On Jan. 4, the governor announced she supported marriage for same-sex couples, saying, “When someone asks me what marriage means, I don’t think about the legal protections of a marriage license. I think about love, commitment, responsibility and partnership. Same-sex couples should not be denied the meaning of marriage. They have a right to be equal.”

Six other states currently allow marriage for same-sex couples — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York — as does the District of Columbia.

Over the years, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has worked with equality advocates in Washington state to secure protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their families. This includes supporting the successful 2002 campaign when the Task Force Action Fund partnered with Tacoma United for Fairness to preserve the city’s existing nondiscrimination ordinance; the victorious 2006 effort to secure statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people; and the 2009 passage of Referendum 71 to extend domestic partner rights.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey says:

The governor kicked off 2012 in style when she vowed to support marriage equality. One month later, we find ourselves on the brink of history. This is a tremendous victory for Washingtonians. It affirms what millions of people across the country already know — loving, committed same-sex couples and their families should be able to join in the celebration and responsibilities of marriage, just as many of their friends, family, neighbors and colleagues already do. People from every background and every circumstance get this; they understand because being able to marry the person you love and care for your family are shared values.

This has been a long journey of changing hearts and minds. The many years of door-knocking, phone calls and poignant conversations about why marriage matters have broken down walls, placed a spotlight on our common humanity and brought us to this historic moment. Congratulations to Washington United for Marriage, Equal Rights Washington and to all those who have been part of the journey leading to this important victory.

Marsha Botzer, Washington United for Marriage coordinating committee member and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force board member, says:

Washington today stood up for what is right, what is fair and what is good for our families. Today, I am even more proud to call Washington my home. This day comes after years of tireless work, of building capacity on the ground, of personal conversations about our lives, our families, and why marriage matters to us. The absolute, determined and unrelenting commitment to full equality and fairness by so many, including all of us at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is helping to create positive change for LGBT people within Washington state and beyond its borders.