Yesterday in a vote of 55 to 43, the Washington State House passed a bill to legalize same sex marriages. The Senate approved the measure last week, and Governor Chris Gregoire is expected to sign it into law as soon as it hits his desk.
In fact, Gregoire issued a statement after the vote that it is:
“a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
It was passed without proposed amendments that would have allowed bakers and photographers a waiver from providing services to same sex couples due to religious belief, such as are granted to churches. Since the last time I heard, bakers weren’t churches, I think this is only right and fair. After all, in my bookselling days I had to sell books to people who were homophobic, racist, sexist, and all kinds of other things I find wildly offensive. As long as they weren’t breaking the law or strongly disrupting the business I was engaged in, I had to serve them to the best of my ability. I didn’t have to enjoy it, but I had to do it.
The new law is scheduled to go into effect ninety days after the end of the session next month, but opponents are already working to put a measure on the next ballot that would negate this vote.
Still, this signals a major turnaround in state marriage politics since the state legislature passed a Defense of Marriage Act in 1998. While the state Supreme Court upheld the act in 2006, it was overturned that same year by a gay civil rights measure. In 2007, a domestic partnership law was passed which the voters upheld.
Washington state legislature, I salute you! And may the voters of your state be more fair-minded and less paranoid than the ones in mine.