It is time for Washington lawmakers to take a bold stance and legalize same-sex marriage.
ALL right, Washington state: Let’s do something bold. In the name of fairness and equality for all residents, it is time to stop working around the edges of domestic partnership rules and benefits. Our state should legalize same-sex marriage.
The opportunity to do that will present itself when the Legislature reconvenes in regular session in January.
A group of Democratic lawmakers, led by state Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, both of Seattle, has decided to push ahead with legislation that would make Washington the seventh state in the country to give gay and lesbian couples full legal rights and benefits of marriage.
Why not? There is no good reason to support gradations of benefits and recognition. This state should be a leader on a matter of fairness and equality.
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A few years ago, Washington voters said they support the Legislature’s passage of a domestic-partnership law that gave gays and lesbians in our state “everything but marriage.”
But if you think about that, “everything but marriage” is half a loaf. Social attitudes and mores change slowly, but attitudes toward gay marriage are evolving quickly. Several polls show support for same-sex marriage building among Washington residents.
Lawmakers cannot afford expenditures for new programs right now because the budget is so strapped. But approving gay marriage would not cost much.
There was a time when it was almost revolutionary to support same-sex marriage. It was admittedly a little “out there” in 2000 when The Seattle Times editorial page, relying in part on the wisdom of the fifth generation of Blethens who own this newspaper, came out in support of the full equality and benefits of marriage.
Now 11 years later, the arguments have not really changed. Public attitudes are becoming more accepting and that advances the debate.
But a strong commitment to fairness is not something that ebbs and flows with the seasons.
Washington lawmakers, led by Murray, have followed an incremental approach, slowly, over time, giving gay and lesbian couples the legal protections and obligations that are part of raising families, managing businesses and owning property.
Baby steps and even some big leaps worked for a while. But there is no good reason to wait.
Washington should join the other states that recognize committed gay and lesbian relationships, and their families, as full-fledged marriages. Not domestic partnerships. Not civil unions. Marriage, just like everyone else.