Four states will be voting on marriage equality this November, and for a change, I think it’s worth winning this round.
For new readers, a brief recap: I got married to my husband back in 2008, during the months before Proposition 8 passed and took that right away. I’m still married in California, kinda-sorta married in some other states, and single in the eyes of the Federal government — except for taxes, for which I have to fill out phantom returns. Yes, it’s frustrating; no, I wouldn’t do anything different. Marriage is great.
Since 2008, I’ve focused my time, money and attention on the Perry Prop 8 case, which is currently awaiting a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.1 I believe the courts are ultimately the correct place for these matters; the rights of minorities shouldn’t be put up for a popular vote.
With this philosophy, I’ve basically ignored the other states with same-sex marriage votes over the past four years. I fact, I wondered whether a state victory might send a dangerous message: see, it’s perfectly fine to vote on civil rights!
But this year, with four states voting on same-sex marriage, I think it’s worth winning at least one of them.
Last week, I donated to Washington United for Marriage, which is working to approve R74, a measure to extend marriage to same-sex couples while protecting the rights of churches to do their own thing. (You can read the exact wording on Ballotpedia.)
The same measure already passed the legislature — couples should be getting married right now — but opponents got it placed on the ballot for the same reason they always do:
Every time the electorate has had the opportunity to cast a ballot, the people vote for traditional marriage.
That’s Chip White, the deputy campaign director for Preserve Marriage Washington, reiterating a standard talking point.
I think it’s time to prove him wrong, and Washington is a great place to do it.
Here’s why a win matters: Federal judges are not oblivious to popular opinion, and no poll is as clear-cut as a vote. Winning same-sex marriage in Washington State would show that public opinion has crossed a tipping point, and that a pro-equality ruling would not be ahead of the curve.
So far, polling in Washington State has been strong but not decisive, with 55 percent of voters in favor of marriage equality. Just like California, the vote will probably be closer than that. But a lot has changed in four years, with popular support climbing over the 50 percent barrier for the first time. Most Americans assume marriage equality will happen. If it isn’t already the mainstream opinion, it seems destined to get there.
Why donate to Washington, and not one of the other three states with marriage issues on the ballot? I think they’re all worthy. I can only speak to my thought process in making my decision.
In polling, Maine’s marriage equality bid seems to have an even bigger lead than Washington’s. Just looking at the map, geography suggests destiny, completing a northeastern block of states with happily-married gay people. I think they’ll get marriage regardless of my dollars.
Minnesota is voting on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, much like Proposition 8. I think all these constitutional amendments will be struck down by the Court at some point. Spending money to defeat this one doesn’t immediately help couples get married, which is my priority.
Maryland’s Question 6 feels very much like Washington’s R74: passed by the legislature, then placed on the ballot for an up/down vote. I chose to support Washington over Maryland largely out of West Coast bias; I wanted another state on my side of the country to get marriage equality.
I still believe what I wrote at the start: I don’t think we should be voting on marriage at all. But I’m donating money this time because it may be our best opportunity to never vote on these issues again. With even one or two wins for our team, the other side loses its perfect-record narrative. Take away their talking points, and there’s not much left to them.
So that’s where I’m at. If you feel similarly, consider sending some money to help win marriage in Washington.
- The Court will also be considering one or more DOMA cases, which is actually more relevant for my situation, since DOMA addresses federal issues. ↩