When R74 passes: a guide to your belated Capitol Hill gay marriage

It seemed like a time to celebrate and plan for summer weddings, last spring when Governor Gregoire signed into law the legislation permitting gay marriage in Washington State. The House (55-43) and Senate (28-21) had passed bills that made this change: “Marriage is a civil contract between (a male and a female) two persons…,” while making it clear that this referred only to civil marriages; religious groups could marry (or not marry) whom they liked.  

How about the Santa Barbara look at popular Hill wedding venue Pravda?

Otherwise, things remained much the same from the state’s point of view: You still had to be eighteen, and you still couldn’t marry a “sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.”

But those opposed to the new law had already announced their strategy: to file an initiative asking for voters to approve the law in a popular vote, and they were ready. Mere hours after the law’s signing, they filed their initiative asking for a referendum. Originally numbered R73, it turned out R73 had already been used, so it became R74. Here is the text voters will see on their ballots:

The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill. This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.

Should this bill be:


Because of the initiative’s filing, there’s been a stay on the original law going into effect. If R74 is approved, “then the same-sex marriage legislation will take effect 30 days after Election Day: December 6, 2012.” That’s a Thursday. 

Those in a marrying frame of mind will need to get a marriage license, which couples can apply for at the King County Recorder’s Office (Room 311, 500 4th Ave). Bring photo ID and $64 (no personal checks, please) and there’s a three-day waiting period to see if you’re serious. The license itself is good for 60 days. You can also apply by mail, but that requires a notary. 

The third calendar day after you pick up your marriage license, you can get married by a Washington State judge (see Related Links), or by an ordained minister or priest, presuming their institution permits it. The earliest gay marriages, then, in Washington should take place on December 9, 2012.

While religious organizations aren’t required to perform same-sex marriages, a number of them are all for it. Members of Reform and Conservative Judaism have been stalwart in pushing for marriage equality: Capitol Hill’s Temple De Hirsch Sinai is ground central. 

The United Church of Christ (on Capitol Hill, there’s the Prospect Congregational United Church of Christ and All Pilgrims on Broadway) and the Unitarians (closest to the Hill: University Unitarian) have been happy to marry same-sex couples for some time, where legal. Since 2009, Evangelical Lutheran pastors (visit the Hill’s Central Lutheran) have been allowed to perform the ceremony if civil law permitted it.  Episcopals offer same-sex couples a blessing, though St. Mark‘s says they look forward to the day same-sex marriage is legal. Catholic bishops still require persuasion.

All of this supposes that Referendum 74 is approved by the voting populace. Funding support, at least, has been strong: “The biggest single donation to the campaign in support of the law came from Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, who donated $2.5 million in July. Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer and co-founder Bill Gates have each given $100,000 in support of the gay marriage law,” reports CBS. That’s left Washington United for Marriage with almost $9 million to spend. So far, polling indicates registered voters may approve the referendum.

Hopefully we’re not letting the cat out of the bag but Shaun Knittel of Social Outreach Seattle has plans. After what he hopes is a celebratory party marking R74’s approval, he’ll be marrying longtime partner Yee-Shin Huang.

“I call Yee-Shin my husband because that is what he is to me,” Knittel said. “But I want it to mean something more than just a cute nickname at a dinner party. When I say to people, ‘My husband should be here any minute’ at a social gathering with mixed LGBTQ and straight allies, people tend to always respond with another question.”

Knittel said he’s also looking forward to his group and others being able to put their energy into other efforts. For Knittel’s group, that includes something called the Capitol Hill Rainbow Crosswalk project, a Seattle HIV/AIDS memorial and flagpole project for Cal Anderson Park and a LGBTQ homeless youth project.

Capitol Hill resident Zach Carstensen, who’s for approval, says he hopes everyone who can will take the time to vote, and vote thoughtfully. Whether or not they may agree with voting on what feels like a civil rights issue, the fact is that Referendum 74 is on the ballot this fall. “Everyone on Capitol Hill should have a plan for how they’re going to vote,” Carstensen says. 

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13 thoughts on “When R74 passes: a guide to your belated Capitol Hill gay marriage

  1. What happens to the domestic partnership program (the one the Legislature passed in 2007 and then voters approved additional rights and benefits in 2009 via referendum) if marriage passes? As I remember, the DP program protects opposite-sex couples over 60 who choose not to get married, so it wasn’t all about same-sex couples. Will the program be amended? Go away? Will same-sex couples get to choose between DPs and marriage? Just curious!

  2. KING did a great job with this question:

    If R-74 passes it will legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Washington and also change laws regarding domestic partnerships. But people who are currently registered with the state as domestic partners would have to make a choice about their future, a big choice that could spark some complicated and sensitive conversations in thousands of households.

    Most domestic partners would have to marry, dissolve their partnership, or do nothing. But the “do-nothing” alternative would eventually mean “marriage.” In June of 2014, those who haven’t either married or legally broken up their partnership would automatically be considered married in the eyes of the state.

  3. I strongly favor a “yes” vote on this initiative, but I think the old saying “don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched” applies here. On Capitol Hill, we live in a bubble of acceptance…but there are many areas and people in this state who will vote “no.”

  4. I phone-bank (basically phone-polling) for a women’s health organization, and one of the questions we ask is how they’ll vote on R74. Of those we’ve called, about 70% are for R74.

  5. I guess you have to take the bad with the good, but I really wish they could’ve left Civil Unions alone for people over 60. They still have the same reasons as before DP’s passed, why they’d prefer a DP over getting married. Not very fair, IMO.

  6. Supporting your point, calhoun, there’s this:

    The state’s most reliable opinion poll, published on Thursday, finds Referendum 74 with a 21-point lead, but delivers an “adjusted model” predicting a much, much closer statewide vote on same-sex marriage.

    The Washington Poll, which interviewed 782 registered voters, has probed and found what University of Washington political scientist calls a “social desirability bias” — people who say they are for marriage equality but are likely to vote against it.


  7. Researcher said the survey process attempted to account for this issue:

    Pollster Matt Barreto attempted to adjust for this by asking two further questions: Did you give any answers that weren’t 100 percent honest, and were there any questions that made you uncomfortable? Respondents who answered that they may have lied, and that they were uncomfortable with the marriage equality question, but who reported that they were leaning Yes on R-74, were undecided, or would not vote, were moved into the No column, as were lean-yes voters who answered a series of questions defining them as very religious conservatives.

  8. one thing to note: i was in eastern washington last week and the signs against R74 ran about 100-0. I saw absolutely no signs supporting the bill and the vote no was on every, i mean every corner

  9. I was always opposed to the “over-60” domestic partnership program, even though it was a little extra “carrot” to get domestic partnerships passed. There’s NOTHING that would prevent any straight couple, at any age, from getting married, even over age 60. However, a divoriced or widowed senior in WA gets a domestic partnership so they can get all the state benefits of marriage to a new spouse, while KEEPING the money flowing from previous marriages, like social security, pensions, alimony, etc. They are double-dipping, including some benefits like social security, which are not available to same-sex domestic partners at all. I say, fine, if you’re a straight person over 60, and you want the benefits of marriage to one person, get married to that person. If you want to keep the benefits of a previous marriage, then don’t get married a second time. But its not fair to allow them to take advantage of a system that essentially allows them to preserve the benefits of TWO marriages/DPs simultaneously, when gay people get none of those benefits (federally, anyway).

  10. I always dreamed of being married to the love of my life; and it being reconized within the country (ok realistically the state) that we live in. Exactly 2years prior to the day legal same sex marriages can happen in Washington (Dec 9) we were legally married in Boston Massechusetts. I’d live to marry her again locally, but is it true that our “out of state but recognized” same sex marraige is suddenly legit here in Washington? Can we just claim MARRIED without another officiant or county fee? Or do we need a matching marraige license to our of state one?