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Will same-sex marriage be overturned in Washington state?

Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a state law in February legalizing gay marriage in the state. Opponents of same-sex marriage in Washington state are trying to obtain 120,577 signatures in order to allow a referendum seeking to overturn the family law.

Washington is not alone in having a law permitting same sex marriage and confronting the possibility of a referendum overturning it. Maryland also legalized same sex marriage this year.

Both supporters and opponents of state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage watched closely this week as North Carolina passed an amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. As of last week, 30 states had amendments in their constitutions banning same sex marriage.

In Washington state, opponents of gay marriage are aiming to put their amendment on the ballot in November. Amendment advocates say that they will consider hiring paid employees to gather signatures to ensure that they will have sufficient support for the ballot measure.

However, a group supporting gay marriage in the state has raised 23 times the amount of money in opposition to the amendment as the group supporting the ballot measure.

As we discussed last month in this blog, in June same sex couples will be able to legally marry in Washington state. Washington state has a substantial history of legally recognizing same-sex couples, with laws protecting domestic partnerships since 2007. In 2009, the legislature extended rights to domestic partners that stopped short only of marriage. Opponents instigated a referendum to repeal the 2009 law, but the voters upheld the law and defeated the referendum.

What will happen to Washington state's same-sex couples who marry in June if the amendment banning gay marriage passes in November? The question of whether their marriages will be recognized in Washington or other states will need to be determined.

What is certain, though, is that Washington will be a key state to watch as the national debate over gay marriage continues.

Source: Seattle Times, "Gay marriage opponents closer to qualifying R-74," Rachel La Corte, May 9, 2012

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