Conservative politicians always say they’re against government intervention in people’s personal lives. So the hypocrisy of a Republican-sponsored law to ban same-sex marriages is obvious, as the state legislature is set to pass another bill that will do just that. The anti-domestic partnership bill, HB2586 (in the House) and SB 5400 (in the Senate), will eliminate benefits for all state employees in same-sex relationships and, by extension, threaten domestic partner benefits programs in Seattle, Olympia, Tumwater, King County, and even non-profits and businesses that receive state funds.
Much of the conservative rationale for this bill is couched in terms of so-called “concern” for teenagers and young adults–students in public schools and universities. Yet the way in which the bill was presented showed absolute contempt for youth and young people’s abilities to decide right from wrong on their own. When dozens of university students traveled to Olympia to testify against the bill at a public hearing, legislators refused to allow them to testify, and set aside only five minutes for public testimony.
Last year, the legislature approved a similar bill that Gov. Gary Locke vetoed. But this year, Republicans are marshaling support to attach a referendum clause to the bill that would put the measure on the November ballot in the event of a veto. And as we saw with the defeat of last year’s Initiative 677 (to ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation), the Washington state electorate is predominantly anti-gay. Our conservative politicians know this, are counting on it, and are using it to promote their own social agenda, instead of dealing with more important issues, like funding public education, revising state housing regulations, appropriating funds for food banks and school lunch programs, or expanding the state health care plan (which is getting 4–5,000 new families added to the waiting list every month).
Worse yet, so-called “moderate” Democrats want to see the bill become law without a public vote. Democrats are joining with the Republican majority in both houses to gather a two-thirds majority to override Locke’s veto, and pass the bill directly into law. Yes, that’s right. Over 120 Democrats are coming up for reelection in November, and none of them want to defend the same-sex marriage bill during their election campaigns. They reason that it’s better that the bill pass into law now, so the public can forget about it by the time November rolls around. Such cynicism and slimy hypocrisy are truly shocking. Remember when Bill Clinton signed a federal gay marriage ban last year? We truly live in a one-party state.
Currently the state of Washington doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, but it doesn’t ban it, either. Two pending court rulings–one in the state of Hawaii and the other in Vermont- -could legalize it in those states, thereby giving gay couples from coast-to-coast the chance to obtain a legal marriage certificate … and give them a legal basis for demanding spousal benefits in other states. Our reactionary state legislature is on the warpath to end this by making these unions illegal in the state of Washington. In the meantime, gay rights organizations are lobbying to keep the bill from gaining a two-thirds majority in the state legislature and passing directly into law. But the alternative isn’t attractive either: after fighting a losing battle over I-677, gay rights groups will have to gear up for another expensive electoral battle with an unsure outcome.
Without a doubt, gay couples deserve the right to form legal domestic partnerships and have the same benefits under law that heterosexual folks take for granted. To join in the campaign against the anti-domestic partnership bill (HB2586), contact Equality Washington at 206-323-5191 or the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington at 206-689-6280. Also, call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and let your representative know what you think about this intrusive, discriminatory bill.