The battle over same-sex marriage is heading to Washington state. Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Wednesday that she would introduce legislation granting gays and lesbians the right to legally marry.
“It’s time, it’s the right thing to do,” Gregoire, a 64-year-old Democrat, said in a statement posted on her website. “I say that as a wife, a mother, a student of the law and above all as a Washingtonian with a lifelong commitment to equality and freedom.”
If the legislation is successful, Washington state would become the seventh state to recognize same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages are already legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York as well as in Washington, D.C.
Gregoire’s statement added: “Our gay and lesbian families face the same hurdles as heterosexual families — making ends meet, choosing what school to send their kids to, finding someone to grow old with, standing in front of friends and family and making a lifetime commitment. For all couples, a state marriage license is very important. It gives them the right to enter into a marriage contract in which their legal interests, and those of their children if any, are protected by well-established civil law.”
Gregoire already has helped expand the rights of gays and lesbians, most notably in 2009 with a bill that protected same-sex domestic partnerships, but she stopped short of actually endorsing same-sex marriage. That measure became known as the “everything but marriage” bill. Nearly 19,000 people in Washington state are registered as domestic partners, according to Reuters.
Activists for and against gay marriage are vowing to turn Washington state into ground zero for the fight. Among them are the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage and the Seattle-based Washington United for Marriage; neither organization was immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington in Lynnwood, Wash., scoffed at Gregoire’s reasoning, telling Bloomberg News that he planned to personally lobby against her bill.
“Marriage has never existed for the purpose of affirming relationships involving adults,” Backholm said today in a telephone interview. “The primary function of marriage is to create the greatest likelihood that children will be raised by their mother and father.”