by Jeremy Leaming
Washington state did not place the effort to advance equality before the whims of voters. Today at the Washington Capitol, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a measure granting lesbians and gay men the right to wed.
“This is a very proud moment,” Gregoire (pictured) said at the bill signing ceremony, the Seattle Times reports. The law will take effect in June, at the earliest, the newspaper states. Last week when the state’s House approved the bill sending it to her, Gregoire said the state would “no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love. We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state. And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
Like the one enacted last year by New York, Washington’s marriage equality law includes language allowing houses of worship to refuse to wed gay couples or allow their facilities to be used for such ceremonies. Besides New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Iowa recognize same-sex marriages. Washington, D.C. also allows gay couples to wed.
As is typical in all states where efforts to advance marriage equality have taken place, Religious Right organizations have rallied to counter them. Opponents of marriage equality in Washington are vowing to collect enough signatures, 241,153 by July 6, to place the newly enacted law before voters in November.
The Family Policy Institute of Washington and the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) are pushing the effort to collect those signatures. The Family Policy Institute describes itself as an outfit that grooms “leaders” to help “impart a biblical worldview for those committed to Judeo-Christian truths ….”
On its blog, John Geis wrote on Feb. 12, “First we pray for a miracle. Yes, I mean this quite literally. Let us pray that Governor Gregoire vetoes the bill on Monday.”
But, Geis continued, if that “miracle” did not transpire and Gregoire signed the measure into law, opponents must “exercise our right to referendum and reject this law!”
NOM, which is fighting to save California’s anti-equality measure, Prop. 8, which the Ninth Circuit ruled unconstitutional last week, is also waging battles to stop marriage equality from advancing in Maryland and New Jersey. It will also join the battle to overturn Washington State’s marriage equality law via the ballot box.
NOM’s president, Brian Brown, has blasted Starbucks, headquartered in Washington, for its support of the marriage equality measure. In a late January press statement the group pledged “an intensive public relations effort to ask Starbucks customers who favor retaining marriage as the union of husband and wife to complain to company headquarters.”
Another Christian Right group, dubbed USA Christian Ministries, has called for a boycott of Starbucks. The group’s website proclaims, “The Lord is the God of the USA and We are His People.” The group’s leader, Steven Andrew, citing Leviticus, a book in Protestant Bibles, claimed in a Jan. 31 statement that “every Christian and church” must boycott Starbucks because, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
A civil liberties group, Equal Rights Washington (ERW), has vowed to counter the effort to use the ballot box to strip the state’s lesbians and gay men of the right to marry.
In N.J., the governor, unlike Gregoire, has pledged to veto the legislature’s marriage equality bill. Gov. Chris Christie said he believes the voters should decide whether equality should be extended to lesbians and gay men in the state. Newark Mayor Cory Booker in recent comments about Christie’s pledge declared, “We should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote, to be subjected to the sentiments, the passions of the day. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and sentiments of the majority.”