Compared to many American states, Washington is a very liberal one and has been since the 1970's. While gay marriage continues to be a political debate, the support of gay rights and gay marriage has reared its head time and time again in countless public polls and legislation acts. How exactly did Washington come to legalize gay marriage? Manplay.com has everything you need to know about Washington gay marriage. Find out more about how Washington became one of the states to legalize gay marriage in this article.
The state of Washington is known as one of the more liberal states in America when it comes to politically progressive ideas, gay marriage and gay rights included. Sexual activity between same-sex couples was legalized with the abolishment of the Sodomy law as early as 1976.
Legal recognition of same-sex couples in Washington can be found as early as 2001 when health care benefits were expanded to include same-sex couples. Domestic unions and gay marriage was not yet legal, but the continued movement forward was incredibly positive for the LGBT community living in the Washington state.
In 2004, a case was opened where a total of eight gay and lesbian couples sued King County for denying them marriage certificates under the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act (DOFA). The King County Supreme Court ruled that the state law was unconstitutional given that the restriction of gay marriage was not rationally related to any legitimate state interest.
With Washington's seemingly positive attitude toward gay, bi, and lesbian individuals and couples, the case's appeal in 2005 came as a bit of a shock to the community. The Washington Supreme Court heard the sides of both this case and many other filed cases of a similar nature. Its decision was shattering. In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the Marriage Law was constitutional in that limiting marriage to opposite sex couples helped further procreation, which is essential to the survival of the human race.
The case's conclusion solidified and unfair and antiquated ideal that marriage was to be restricted to a union between one man and one woman in the state of Washington. No doubt, the ruling was a definite set back. However, this decision set the Legislature in action to successfully pass a state registered domestic partnership law for same sex and opposite sex couples. Not all was lost.
In early 2007, the LBGT community received another victory toward gay rights and gay marriage when the Senate Bill 5336 was passed. This bill outlined protection toward rights and privileges for those who are involved in a domestic partnership. The bill specifically addressed Same-sex couples, stating that while they cannot legally marry in the state of Washington, it is beneficial that they be allowed several rights and freedoms granted to married couples.
This was a huge step toward what would become the legalization of Washington gay marriage. Some of these rights and freedoms allotted to domestic unions included: health care decision-making, visitation, and information-access rights; organ donation; inheritance and administration rights. Domestic violence laws applied as well as community property and dissolution laws. Some property transfers between partners were not taxed and a few more rights and privileges afforded to married couples on top of that.
The passing of SB 5336 put some positive wheels in motion from the side of Washington officials. Yet, some gay activists remained frustrated with the 2006 court case decision stating gay marriage was an infringement on procreation. The Washington Defence of Marriage Alliance, an LGBT rights group, proposed Initiative 957 in challenge of the court's assertion. Initiative 957 stated that all marriages recognized by Washington state were required to produce an offspring within three years of their marriage. It was filed to challenge the logic of the court's argument on procreation in January of 2007. The initiative was withdrawn in July, but certainly left its mark.
As the years passed, more and more Washington officials and lawmakers were beginning to show their support of gay marriage and gay rights. In 2009, legislation introduced another bill which allowed domestic partnerships to have complete equal footing with marriage. This law allowed full rights and freedoms for domestic partnerships including access to disability insurance, unemployment, and/or workers’ compensation; Adoption, child custody, and child support rights; sick leave for care of a domestic partner; insurance after death; and more. Jamie Pedersen, an openly gay official and the House sponsor of the bill, stated that it was an improvement but not a substitution for gay marriage in Washington. His outward thinking continued to help develop change in Washington's Legislature regarding gay rights.
More positive motions were underway for Washington gay marriage when Referendum 71 sought to overturn the 2009 decision for equal rights between domestic partnerships and civil marriages and was voted against by the Washington people. With the aid of groups such as Washington Families Standing Together and Equal Rights Washington, 2009 marked the first time in United States history that voters approved a statewide measure extending LGBT relationship rights.
The recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed in another state was realized in Washington by 2011 as domestic partnerships. With partnerships being equal in their rights as opposite sex marriages and same-sex marriages legally performed in another state being recognized as domestic partnerships, the full legalization of gay marriage was only a matter of time.
Finally in 2012, legislation legalizing gay marriage passed the Washington State Senate. The law not only proposed the legalization of gay marriage in Washington but also proposed that all domestic partnerships which have remained undissolved within two years of their registered union were to be converted into marriages. A referendum disputing the legislation was proposed by Republican Dan Swecker, but failed by a 3-4 vote. Victory was finally at hand for the LGBT community of Washington State.
On January 30th, 2012, The House of Representatives passed the bill out of the Judiciary Committee. The Committee voted on February 6th, and the House passed the legislation on February 8th. Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law on February 13th. At last, gay marriage was legal in Washington.
Prior to the legalization of gay marriage in Washington, a 2011 Public Policy Poll found that 46% of voters thought gay marriage should be legal, while 44% opposed the idea and 10% were not sure.
A University of Washington survey found that 55% of the voters would uphold a legislatively approved gay marriage bill, 38% would oppose it, and 7% were undecided. The same survey discovered 43% of Washington respondents approve that same-sex couples have the same rights as straight couples. 22% felt that same-sex couples should have the same rights, but without using the word 'marriage', 15% thought domestic partnerships should be allowed, but with only some rights belonging to opposite sex couples, 17% were not in favor of any legal recognition, and 3% were unsure.
A Public Policy Poll in 2012 found that 50% of Washington voters would approve the legalization of gay marriage, 46% would oppose it, and 7% were unsure. The poll found that the support of gay marriage in general had remained at 46%, 32% believed homosexual couples should be allowed a civil union, but not marriage, and only 20% disagreed with all legal recognition of gay relationships. 2% were unsure.
Within one year after passing the bill, an official survey was released by the Washington State Department of Health. Its statistics on gay marriage was overwhelming.
Approximately 17% of marriages were gay marriages in the period between December 2012 and September 2013.
The top five Washington counties where gay marriages were performed were:
King County (3,452 marriages)
Clark County (785 marriages)
Pierce County (486 marriages)
Snohomish County (330 marriages)
Thurston County (300 marriages)
A data table updated in 2015 on the Washington Post shared that 63% of Washington people supported gay marriage where only 29% oppose it and 8% had no opinion.
Poll results from the 2015 Public Policy Poll uncovered that 56% of voters say gay marriage should be legal, while an astounding 78% of Washington voters state that gay marriage in Washington has either positively impacted their life or had no impact at all on them. 64% of voters say gay conversion therapy should remain illegal.
Data collected by the Equal Rights Washington and Equality Foundation show that the total publicly LGBT population of Washington is 212,482 making up 4% of the adult population. Out of that number, 16% of them are raising children.
Gay marriage has been legal in Washington since 2012. Since the passing of legislation, which enabled same-sex couples to marry, several positive initiatives to protect and expand equal rights for gay couples and LGBT identifying individuals have been enacted including the criminalization of hate speech directed toward sexual orientation or gender identity and the prohibition of conversion therapy on minors.
The future of gay marriage in Washington is bright. It's here to stay. Several advances have been made to insure the protection of Same sex couples' rights and freedoms including a number of non-discrimination laws.
The public opinion of gay marriage rights has been steadily increasing year by year. With so many provisions already in place to support gay rights and gay marriage, its safe to say that for the gay couple, Washington is a wonderful state to live in and visit.