Lots of news these days on the gay marriage front almost all of it good. Washington State has joined Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Iowa (plus Washington, D.C.) in legalizing gay marriage. Maryland and New Jersey are moving closer and the Appeals Court upheld the California ruling on Prop 8. And polls now show that most Americans support the equal right of gays and lesbians to marry. The tide has turned and the wave of gay marriage is coming in quickly now.
On the day before Valentine’s Day, Washington Governor, Christine Gregoire signed the bill legalizing gay marriage in that state. It will take effect in 90 days. According to the Reuters story
Gregoire, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic, signed the measure to raucous applause during a ceremony in the ornate reception room of the Olympia statehouse, declaring, “This is a very proud moment. … I’m proud of who and what we are as a state.” It was the latest victory for the U.S. gay rights movement.
Anticipating the repeal campaign that lies ahead later this year, the governor added, “I ask all Washingtonians to look into your hearts and ask yourselves – isn’t it time? … We in this state stand proud for equality.”
Democrats, who control both legislative bodies in Olympia, accounted for the lion’s share of support for the measure. The stage for swift passage was set after Gregoire, who is in her last term of office, said last month she would endorse the law.
Several prominent Washington-based companies employing tens of thousands of workers in the state have supported the bill, including Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks.
Opponents were led by Roman Catholic bishops and other religious conservatives.
Meanwhile on the East Coast bills were advancing in Maryland and New Jersey. Taking Maryland first, Reuters reported
A joint panel of the Maryland legislature approved on Valentines’s Day a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, adding to national momentum for gay nuptials following advances in California, New Jersey and Washington state over the last week.
Committee approval of Governor Martin O’Malley’s bill on Tuesday moves Maryland closer to becoming the eighth state to legalize gay marriage.
The House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee and the Health and Government Operations Committee approved the measure 25-18 in a joint vote, a judiciary panel spokeswoman said. The measure is expected to go to the full House on Wednesday, she said.
Interestingly the opposition in the Maryland legislature – and in the state – is coming from African Americans. Rev. Al Sharpton is lobbying black ministers to support the bill. Anyone who wants to characterize the black community as monolithic is mistaken as when the Massachusetts bill passed some of the most passionate supporters were African American legislators like Dianne Wilkerson.
New Jersey is, unlike Washington and Maryland, facing opposition from Governor Chris Christie who believes that civil rights issues should be referendum issues. The New York Times reported
The New Jersey State Senate voted on Monday to legalize same-sex marriage, a significant shift in support from two years ago, when a similar measure failed.
The legislation faces a vote on Thursday in the State Assembly, but even if that chamber passes the measure, as expected, Gov. Chris Christie, who favors holding a referendum on the issue, has said he will veto it.
But advocates hailed the Senate vote as a huge advance, noting that they won 10 more votes than they did two years ago. And both supporters and opponents said they were surprised by the margin: the bill needed 21 votes to succeed and passed 24 to 16.
“The margin brought the notion of an override out of fantasyland,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay rights group. “Before today, I would have said the chances of an override were one in a million. Now I’d say it’s about one in two.”
Mr. Christie, a Republican, has said the issue should be put on the ballot in November as a constitutional amendment. Some polls have found that a slight majority of New Jersey voters support same-sex marriage. Advocates note, however, that in 31 states where same-sex marriage has been put to a referendum, it has failed.
On Monday, Mr. Sweeney [Senate President] said there was “not a chance in hell” that he would support the legislation required to put the question to a ballot, which he said would mean allowing “millions of dollars to come into this state to override a civil right.”
New Jersey already has legalized civil unions.
Watch to see if Rick Santorum makes gay marriage repeal an issue if he gets the nomination. Likewise Mitt Romney. The Republicans are, I think, swimming against the tide.