One fewer roadblock to equality

July 12, 2012 

Thank goodness Washington voters will have one fewer distraction on the November ballot, so they can focus on ratifying or rejecting the state Legislature’s recognition of same-sex marriages.

Initiative 1192, which would have defined marriage in Washington state as only between a man and a woman, fell woefully short of the required number of signatures and did not qualify for the November ballot.

The initiative fell flat, in fact, missing by more than 100,000 signatures. Perhaps sponsor Stephen Pidgeon spent too much time on his campaign as a Republican for attorney general.

Or, maybe, Washington voters have already moved on.

After all, the legislative action to legalize same-sex marriage – Senate Bill 6239 – was strongly bipartisan. And poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans do not feel that legalizing same-sex marriage threatens heterosexual marriage.

Tony Sermonti, a leader in the South Sound gay community, said he is noticing a fundamental shift in the annual Capital City Pride festival. Its growth over the last few years is coming, in part, from the participation of a broader range of people: Straight folks feel more comfortable publicly supporting and celebrating with their lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender friends and family.

With I-1192 officially dead, the attention now turns to Referendum 74. Voters are being asked to endorse Senate Bill 6239, which the Legislature passed this year, adding Washington to the list of six states plus the District of Columbia that recognize same-sex marriages.

If you support right of loving couples to marry, raise families and accept all the responsibilities that come with marriage equality, then you will vote yes on R-74.

Voters similarly endorsed R-71 back in 2009, which ratified the Legislature’s Domestic Partnership Act.

The local LGBT community is hosting fundraisers and other campaign events that have been well-attended by the LGBT community and “a tremendous amount of straight allies and their families,” according to Sermonti.

Sermonti believes Washington voters will ratify R-74 because it is simply seeking equality. “It is stunning that my partner, Brooke Gillispie, who served our country in Afghanistan, and I cannot be married if we choose. There are folks who would call him a hero for his service, yet vote to deny him marriage equality.”

Sermonti puts a fine point on the fact that there is far more to LGBT people than just their sexuality.

That idea has been embraced widely in our state. Just this week, for example, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer each donated $100,000 to Yes on R-74 campaign. Their company joins other major Northwest businesses, such as Amazon, Nike, Expedia and Google in supporting the law approving same-sex marriages.

If the failure of I-1192 provides any indication at all of how R-74 will fare at the polls, same-sex marriage will become a reality in our state.

Washington voters can then look back some day and know they were on the right side of history.

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