Speaking of Women's Rights: Have we reached the tipping point for marriage equality? Or swayed backwards?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Have we reached the tipping point for marriage equality? Or swayed backwards?

Last month was great for marriage equality: Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine. Today, not so good: California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8. We all knew that was the likely outcome, but couldn’t quite resign ourselves until we saw it in writing, all 186 pages of it. If you’re really up for it, read the decision and dissent.

So – had we reached a tipping point for marriage equality? Put another way, how big a setback is the decision? Not that big, actually. The real blow was when the voters in California supported Prop 8; this decision was just a last rebuff to the effort to stop it. The winds of change are still in our favor.

Now we need to make sure that nothing similar to the Prop 8 tragedy happens in Washington. Our Legislature passed a bill providing that registered domestic partners will be afforded the same rights, responsibilities and obligations as married couples (though provisions of the bill that will cost the state money, like pension benefits, won’t take effect until 2014). Sadly, we’re facing a possible referendum to repeal that law.

Those of us who will work in opposition to the referendum (Washington Families Standing Together) are assessing several issues: Can the far-right-wing religious conservatives gather more than 120,000 valid signatures by July 25th? How responsive will the voters of Washington be to signing the petition, and if it comes to it, how will they vote? We know what the polls say (more than 65% of Washingtonians support LGBT couples having the same rights and responsibilities as married couples). And there’s positive movement across the country toward acceptance of the right to marry for LGBT couples. We also know, however, that even if things are changing rapidly, 42 states have constitutional or statutory prohibitions against LGBT couples being married, so even in the best scenario, it will take quite a while to eradicate all that discriminatory treatment.

For now, we’ll focus on stopping the anti-family referendum in Washington, on continuing to educate the people of the state about the protections all families need and deserve, and on moving toward full marriage equality. Please join our fight.