March 3, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 09
search only SGN online
Tuesday, Aug 11, 2020



While we've been waiting. . .
While we've been waiting. . .
by Brie Gyncild - ERW Board Co-chair

Amidst the excitement of renegade weddings in spring 2004, same-sex couples in Washington pushed for access to marriage, too. King County Executive Ron Sims invited a lawsuit, filed in March 2004. That lawsuit was followed by one in Thurston County, representing couples from all over the state.

Think back to that time, just two years ago. 2003 had been a landmark year. Same-sex couples won the right to wed in Ontario and British Columbia. The United States Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws throughout the country with its Lawrence decision. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in the Goodridge case in November, and had set May 17 as the date that marriage equality would become the law in that state. We'd seen the Massachusetts legislature attempt to circumvent the high court's decision with civil unions; the court had firmly said no, that only marriage would do.

And then, on February 12, 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in that city. Newsom attested that denying those licenses violated the state's constitution, which he was sworn to uphold. All eyes turned to San Francisco, as couples stood in line for hours to gain legal recognition for their relationships. Meanwhile, the mayor of New Paltz, New York, began performing ceremonies on Feb 27. Multnomah County began issuing licenses on March 3.

It was a time of excitement, joy, confusion, and, of course, uncertainty. And there was no turning back.

Massachusetts began issuing licenses, as planned, on May 17, and the sky didn't fall in. Out-of-state couples suffered because Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney resurrected a long-overlooked 1913 law that bars the state from issuing licenses to people if the license would not be recognized in their home state. The law was originally motivated by racism, preventing the spread of interracial marriages. But it served Romney just fine in restricting access to marriage for same-sex couples. Nevertheless, despite attempts at a constitutional amendment and other court challenges, marriage equality stands in Massachusetts-and a decision is pending on the constitutionality of the law barring out-of-state couples from marriage.

Couples wed in San Francisco, New Paltz, Multnomah County, and later, New Mexico, had their licenses revoked. But they played their part in history. And cases are working their way through courts in California, New York, New Jersey, and several other states, just as in Washington.


As the Washington State Supreme Court justices consider the case before them, they do is in the context of shifting marriage laws around the world. The Canadian legislature granted marriage equality throughout the country last year. It became the third country to do so, following Holland and Belgium. Spain quickly followed Canada. In November 2005, South Africa's Constitutional Court found that barring same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional, and that ruling goes into effect this November.

As the laws change, so do opinions. A recent poll in Ireland even showed majority support for marriage equality. If the people of Ireland and Spain can support equality for LGBT people, surely the American people can.

Here in the United States, we've seen Connecticut pass civil unions legislation without a court's requirement. The California legislature, which had already passed domestic partnership legislation, passed a marriage equality bill last fall. The bill was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, but the fact that a legislature passed such a bill is cause for great celebration. In Maryland, a lower court declared the state's ban unconstitutional, and that case now wends its way through the system. The New Jersey Supreme Court heard arguments in its marriage case last week, and early reports suggest that it might issue an opinion later this spring.

Marriage Equality Now is marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court's hearing last March 8 with a march and rally on Saturday, March 11. The march convenes on Capitol Hill at noon, and ends at Westlake Center, where a rally begins at 1 p.m. Equal Rights Washington will be there, and we hope you'll join us. For more info on the event, visit

However our justices decide, we know that marriage equality is coming. There is much hard work to do, but we're on the winning side. Join Equal Rights Washington as we help to make history, visit:

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