It’s Official: Washington State Voters Approve Gay Marriage
Referendum 74, a measure that would allow same-sex couples in Washington State to legally marry, has been voted into law on Tuesday. Several media outlets and local newspapers called it a win for the LGBT community before the official count was declared on Wednesday afternoon.
The measure is ahead in the polls with 51.8 percent of voters supporting the referendum and 48.2 percent opposing it, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
"It’s something that’s going to go down in history as one of the biggest moments for civil rights in this generation," Kort Haven, 26, who partied with other supporters in Seattle’s Capitol Hill when the good news was announced, told the Seattle Times.
The newspaper points out that gay rights activists have been pushing for Referendum 74 for nearly 20 years when they started campaigning for the measure in the mid-’90s. in 2007, the Legislature created limited domestic partnerships. A year later, Washington State expanded domestic partnerships to include all of the state-level rights granted to married couples.
But it wasn’t until 2011 when activists made significant progress. In April Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill to legalize gay marriage that passed the Legislature. The measure would have gone into effect in June but in February 2012 activists faced a setback when opponents of legislation collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the bill. This caused the state’s voters to decide on the issue on November 6.
"I was thinking of the last 17 years of this battle: The first Defense of Marriage Act was filed the first week of my first session: What an ugly time," said State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who is the main sponsor for the gay marriage legislation in Olympia, the state capital. "At some point in those first three years, the Seattle P-I quoted on the front page then-Rep. Mike Shersted. He said something about putting ’us’ all in a boat. What a long way we have come."
Activists also spent a great deal of time and money to pass the measure as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that $12 million was raised to support marriage equality.
Washington State was greatly divided on the issue and age played a large role in its passage. Several young people supported the referendum, while most of the elderly were against it.
"We are raised in this country learning about ultimately successful struggles for civil rights: How is marriage equality any different?" asked Nick Hamilton, a Seattle native who voted by mail from Paris where he is teaching English.
Additionally, the LGBT community saw support from a number of
Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Evergreen State, including Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. Each donated millions of dollars to marriage equality campaigns. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made a seven-figure personal donation, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates donated six figures.
No major companies came out against the measure.
While activists are declaring the outcome a victory, those who oppose marriage equality put out the line that they were simply outspent.
"Regardless of what happens tonight, we have fought for what is good, true and beautiful," Joseph Backholm, campaign chairman for Preserve Marriage Washington, a group determined to ban same-sex marriage in the state, told the Times. "I hope we can celebrate this week,"
Maine and Maryland also voted to legalize marriage equality and Iowa upheld a measure that already recognizes same-sex marriage. Minnesota voters voted down an amendment to enshrine the anti-marriage equality law already on the books into their state’s constitution.