(Editor's note: This article contains original material as well a compilation of quotes obtained through news releases.)
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday that she will propose legislation to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Gay-rights groups and allies immediately endorsed the proposal, which will be introduced during the legislative session that begins Monday.
"It's time, it's the right thing to do, and I will introduce a bill to do it," Gregoire said in a statement.
"Our gay and lesbian families face the same hurdles as heterosexual families -- making ends meet, choosing what school to send their kids to, finding someone to grow old with, standing in front of friends and family and making a lifetime commitment," Gregoire said. "For all couples, a state marriage license is very important. It gives them the right to enter into a marriage contract in which their legal interests, and those of their children if any, are protected by well-established civil law."
If the bill passes, Washington would become the seventh state to provide marriage equality to its citizens. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized same-sex marriage.
Nine states — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington — provide same-sex couples with access to the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state. Californians are awaiting a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on whether it will uphold a lower court ruling that Proposition 8, which bans marriage equality in the state, is unconstitutional.
Washington United for Marriage, a coalition of organizations, congregations, unions and business associations that will work to obtain civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Washington State in 2012, applauded Gov. Gregoire for endorsing marriage equality in the Evergreen State.
“Governor Gregoire made crystal clear why marriage equality matters and why the legislature should pass it this year,” said Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage. “She has shown tremendous leadership on this issue which affects so many of our friends, family and neighbors.”
During her remarks, Gregoire clearly made the case of why marriage matters and the impact of having separate classifications of relationship recognition for lesbian and gay couples. Thousands of families in Washington State will be impacted by the legislation, which would allow for civil marriage of lesbian and gay couples. Currently, these couples may register for a domestic partnership which confers most of the rights and responsibilities of marriage, but does not recognize the love, commitment and devotion to family that marriage conveys.
"My partner and I have been together 22 years, and our family is very similar to those of my friends and colleagues," said Jennifer Cast, a longtime Washington resident who wishes to marry. "We work hard to create a productive and happy life for ourselves and our family. We cherish the good times and console each other during hard times. We share each other's challenges, sorrows, triumphs, and joys, just like any other couple. We want our love and commitment to be valued and recognized equally in our state."
“When I tell people that Rudy and I have a domestic partnership, they really don’t understand what that means,” said John McCluskey, a longtime resident of Tacoma. “We’ve been together for 53 years and I couldn’t imagine spending my life with anyone else. The thought that people don’t understand that our family faces the same struggles and the same triumphs as any other family in our state is heartbreaking.”
Joe Solmonese, outgoing president of the Human Rights Campaign, said he was heartened by the news out of Washington state.
“From coast to coast, more and more Americans are coming to appreciate the values they share with committed gay and lesbian couples: the desire to love, honor and protect the person they love,” he said.
Marriage Equality USA officials also praised the governor.
"2012 is already building on the tremendous progress towards equality in 2011. Today's historic announcement from Governor Gregoire shows the momentum from marriage equality in New York and victories around the country is spreading rapidly from coast to coast," said Stuart Gaffney, Marriage Equality USA media director.
"We are optimistic the Evergreen State will now be joining the Empire State in establishing the freedom to marry for all," said John Lewis, Marriage Equality USA legal director. "New Year's Day rang in civil unions in Hawaii and Delaware. Today's announcement continues to build momentum for all loving, committed couples to be treated equally under the law."
"With every passing year, we see support for equal marriage rights growing rapidly. A recent poll showed 55% of Washingtonians would vote against a ballot initiative that attempted to repeal a marriage equality bill," Gaffney said.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at email@example.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.