The Washington State Senate has approved SB 6239, a bill granting marriage equality
, in a 28-21 vote. It now moves on to the House, where its passage is all but assured, then to the desk of Governor Gregoire, who started the process earlier this year
and has promised to sign it.
But, then what?
As in 2009, when citizens voted 53-47 in favor of Referendum 71 to reject overturning the legislature's domestic partnership bill
, the bill will likely be subject to a citizen referendum, rendering it temporarily inactive until approved by popular vote. A recent poll found that 55% of voters would approve that measure
. If that holds true, same-sex marriages could begin in Washington State starting December 7th, 2012.
In September of 2004, a Superior Court in Washington state ruled the state's 1998 "Defense of Marriage" act unconstitutional
, a ruling which would have allowed the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In 2006, the state Supreme Court issued in an opinion in Andersen v. King County
overturning the lower court's ruling, noting "that our decision [pdf]
is not based on an independent
determination of what we believe the law should be." The legislature, in response, created the state-registered domestic partnership
in 2007, expanding many (but not all) marriage-related rights to same-sex couples. Last month, a new law expanded the partnership
to cover the remaining rights, creating an "all-but-marriage" partnership.
This year, the Washington Values Alliance has filed Referendum 71
, which would put this expansion to a ballot vote. The referendum will need 120,000 signatures to make it to the ballot. WhoSigned.org intends to make these signatures searchable
, this is creating some controversy
. [more inside]