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:
[ ] APPROVED
[ ] REJECTED
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.