Washington governor Chris Gregoire signed her state’s new marriage equality bill into law today at the state capitol building in Olympia, WA, less than one week after the bill passed, saying, “As governor now for over seven years of this great state, this is a very proud moment.”
Gregoire, who is Catholic and had wrestled with the issue of same-sex marriage, thanked her daughters for helping convince her that “marriage equality is the civil rights issue of their time.” Just before signing the bill she asked the crowd, “Isn’t it time to support strong families and make Washington state stronger?”
The first same-sex marriages in Washington could come as soon as June 7, but the law will almost certainly be challenged: Opponents need just 120,000 signatures by June 6 to challenge it with a November ballot referendum.
“These are the moments I live for,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solomnese in a statement this morning. “But a new fight is taking shape right now. Anti-equality groups will push this landmark measure to a public referendum. Losing would mean a reversal of this victory and guarantee that no same-sex marriages ever actually happen in Washington.”
It may not come to that: Washington has had a strong domestic partnership law on the books since 2009 that his withstood challenges from anti-equality groups,m and recent polling suggests a majority of Washington voters support same-sex marriage equality. And even if a ballot referendum were to be successful, the precedent set last week in a ruling on California’s ongoing Propostion 8 battle suggests that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals would deem any such challenge as a violation of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Earlier this month Gregoire released a video statement for the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Marriage Equality noting that “marriage equality is fair, just, and right, and it is time. Please join me and a majority of Washingtonians and Americans who support marriage equality.”
On the other side of the fence, Rick Santorum — the most vocal opponent of same-sex marriage equality and gay rights in general among the current crop of Republican presidential candidates — is planning a campaign rally tonight at 7pm on Tacoma, WA at the Washington Historical Museum. Expect him to say some things that won’t make Washington-based columnist Dan Savage happy at all.
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