Washington keeps trending towards marriage equality but isn’t there yet

For the 5th year in a row, the number of pro-equality voters in Washington state is increasing.  Last week The Washington Poll released the results of their annual fall poll of likely voters on questions including this one:

Q: Which of the following statements best describes your views on the issue of same-sex marriage?

  • Gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal right to marry as straight couples.

  • Gay and lesbian couples should be able to have the same legal rights as stright couples but it should not be called marriage.

  • There should be domestic partnerships that give gay and lesbian couples only some of the benefits and protections of marriage.

  • There should be no legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples.

  • Dunno/Getoffmylawn
  • The Washington Poll is a non-partisan academic survey research project sponsored by the University of Washington’s Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality.  They first asked this question in 2006.  I combed through previous reports so that we could look at the most recent results in historical context.  Looking at the graph above, the positive, unwavering trend towards equality is very clear.

    We saw this statistical trend validated last year when almost 53% of the Washington electorate voted to ratify the new comprehensive domestic partnership law via Referendum 71 (a national first!).  A post-election analysis showed that 38 of Washington’s 39 counties had demonstrated an increase in pro-equality voting since the last time an LGBT measure was on the ballot.

    So we’re ready to push for marriage equality in the legislature, right?  Well, not so fast.
    The really great news is that fully 29% of voters in Washington State believe gay and lesbian couples should be legally recognized.  But from here it gets a little more complicated.  The graph to the right should make you drool.  I’ve combined the results from the Washington Poll graph above into two pots: voters who support marriage equality or full domestic partnerships, and voters who support limited domestic partnerships or no legal recognition for lesbian and gay couples.  In the Land of Wishful Thinking, we’re nearing 70% support when you look at this way.  Do not look at it this way.  Then why am I showing you this?  So that you can see that we have great potential for success in Washington if we marshal our resources over the next 2 years..  

    Strong support for marriage equality currently polls somewhere close to 40%.  Taking a sober look at that number is vital because Washington is a referendum state and any marriage equality law passed by the legislature will almost certainly need to be defended at the polls.  The wild card are the 29% percent of voters who support giving same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of marriage but don’t want the  legal status called marriage. While many of these voters will ultimately support marriage equality we can’t even count on a majority of them.  And here is what we know about how voters actually behave when it comes to marriage referenda and initiatives.

    * Pre-election polls consistently underestimate opposition to marriage equality.

    * We cannot change voters’ attitudes on marriage equality during the course of an election campaign.

    These facts are well known to our leadership in the Washington state Legislature, and Senator Ed Murray for one has said he will file but not push a marriage equality bill until he’s satisfied that the electorate is ready to ratify it at the polls.

    Equal Rights Washington’s Executive Director Josh Friedes says we are at the point where we can seriously start talking about winning marriage equality at the ballot box as early as November 2012.  According to Friedes, what we need to do over the next 18 months is explain to voters why full domestic partnerships are not equivalent to marriage.

    Part of this conversation has to be sharing our personal stories and the stories of people we care about. We need to help people see that domestic partnerships don’t provide the dignity every person is entitled to.  Another part of the conversation has to be explaining how domestic partnerships do not attempt to confer the federal protections of marriage such as Social Security protections, immigration rights and equal treatment under the IRS tax code. Lastly we need to address the concerns many voters have, we need to ask adult children of same-sex couples to speak out so that ambivalent voters can see that our children grow up to be productive and well adjusted.

    It  takes a long time for voters to move on family recognition issues so we need to start now and since the key is personal conversations we need to fund an educational program that allows us to reach out to the 40% of voters who already strongly support marriage equality and ask them to speak to their social networks.

    Friedes says that its not so much that the work is hard, as it is costly. In California and Maine the money came too late.

    We need to fully fund a comprehensive education program that starts to roll out by mid 2011, if we have any intention of winning marriage on the ballot in November 2012.

    So what’s the moral of the story?  The latest poll results are incredibly encouraging, but we still have a lot of work to do, and it is work that cannot be put off until some electoral crunch time.  I’m game.  Are you in?
    Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

    —  John Wright

    Tomorrow In NYC’s Washington Square: Glowstick Vigil For LGBT Youth

    Sunday at 9pm thousands will gather in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park for a You-Are-Loved vigil for LGBT youth. (No candles, open flames are strictly forbidden.) Facebook event page:

    The vigil will start promptly at 9:00pm in Washington Square Park underneath the arch. Please bring your own glowstick if you have one as there will be a limited amount available. We will have at least 1,000 glowsticks to provide. The event will culminate in a chalking session in honor of the 2nd annual “You-Are-Loved Chalk Messaging Project.” This project is meant to provide uplifting messages as well as shed light on the amount of bullying, harassment, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts that disproportionately affect queer youth.

    Confirmed guests include the Trevor Project, Ali Forney Center, GLAAD, and Heritage of Pride. I will attend and document the event for JMG. Now where does one buy a glowstick in NYC?

    Joe. My. God.

    —  John Wright

    Washington Blade: Senate will vote on Defense bill with DADT language

    Breaking news this afternoon, courtesy of Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:

    The Washington Blade has learned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) intends to schedule a vote next week on major defense budget legislation that contains “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language, regardless of any objection from members of the U.S. Senate.

    A senior Democratic leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Reid met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday to inform the Republican leader that the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill will come to the Senate floor the week of Sept. 20.

    The aide said Senate leadership is anticipating the Senate won’t have unanimous consent to bring the legislation to the floor, so 60 votes will be necessary to end a filibuster and move forward with debate on the bill.

    “We are going to take it the floor next week to see where the votes are,” the aide said.

    So, we’re getting a vote and we need 60 votes.



    AMERICAblog Gay

    —  John Wright

    Washington Supreme Court bans Gary Randall’s judicial pick from the bench

    It is Primary season in Washington state, which means the retired homophobic televangelist “of questionable ethicsGary Randall is again endorsing judicial candidates for his neighboring state of Washington.  No surprise he’s endorsed the two-fer pack of homophobes for the Supreme Court; he has a habit of identifying the dregs and foisting them on too-trusting Washingtonians.  

    Gary Randall’s judicial recommendation: Convicted felon Michael Hecht

    Take for example one Michael Hecht, Randall’s 2008 judicial recommendation for Pierce County (WA) Superior Court.  Of Judge Hecht the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct recently said he brought “great dishonor” to the state courts.  Then they censured him and recommended to the Supreme Court that he be barred from ever serving as a judge in Washington again.  It is a severe penalty, but after all Hecht was found guilty of felony harassment and patronizing a prostitute.

    A Pierce County jury found him guilty of threatening to kill a man who claimed he sold sex to Hecht and of buying sex from another young man.

    Just the kind of judge you’re likely to end up with if you vote for candidates recommended by a preacher from another state.

    In an uncanny happenstance of timing, the Washington State Supreme Court has just announced that they have permanently barred Hecht from the bench.  It’s almost as if the Lord were trying to send Randall a message.  Can you hear the clarion call, Pastor Randall?  “And why recommend thou the felonious scum to thy brother’s court, but considerest not the same for thine own court?”

    I can’t wait to see who else Randall endorses this election.  But I do hope we’re in for a less disturbing disappointment this year.  Maybe a stealth graffiti artist or doorknob thief.  Please Pastor Randall, no more bilious homophobes or murderous felons.  It makes us doubt your direct line to God.

    Related:

    * Judicial Commission censures Gary Randall’s Pierce County judicial pick

    * Gary Randall’s judicial pick convicted of felony

    * Oregonian Gary Randall’s History of Manipulating Washington State Voters
    Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

    —  John Wright

    WATCH: 8 GetEQUAL activists arrested at Capitol

    The Advocate reports:

    The direct action group GetEqual staged a sit-in in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon as part of an effort to push House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take a vote on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would outlaw workplace discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

    —  John Wright

    SLDN board member Dave Guy-Gainer on DADT compromise: 'The war is still not won'

    Dave Guy-Gainer
    Dave Guy-Gainer

    UPDATE, 2 p.m.: SLDN has issued a national action alert on DADT. For more, go here.

    Gay-rights activists strongly disagree (what else is new???) about whether a compromise announced Monday on “don’t ask don’t tell” is a good thing. For a decent summation of the two views, go here and here. As for me, I’m aligning myself with Tarrant County’s Dave Guy-Gainer, a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network who said the following in an e-mail just moments ago:

    We are now at 48 hours and counting. The events of yesterday brought about an agreement between those fighting for the demise of DADT; the White House; members of both the House and Senate; and the DOD as to how repeal CAN move forward. Never in its history have we been at such a cooperative juncture.

    Secretary Gates, the President, and Congress are now in sync and Congress is not being asked to delay action. Delay beyond this session most likely would have been a death knell to repeal in any form. Congress is no longer fearful of casting a vote without DOD’s buy in. The power of Executive Order in dealing with open service will be clearly restored to the President. The LAW that says we are “incompatible with military service” will be erased from the books. Repeal allows the DOD to complete its study of HOW inclusion will happen and NOT IF it should without the continual disruption of partisan politics and the anti-gay rhetoric of those who support discrimination. Repeal of the law will enable those like Admiral Mullen to finally take action and not just wrestle with the wrongness he feels in his heart.

    —  John Wright

    BREAKING: White House OKs DADT plan

    There was huge news out of Washington on Monday night, as it looks like the White House has signed off on a proposal to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” by delaying implementation of the change until after the Pentagon completes its working group study.

    The proposed repeal of DADT has been in doubt for weeks, after Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was opposed to lifting the policy before the study is completed in December. However, this green light from the White House paves the way for the House and Senate to take up the repeal later this week.

    The White House on Monday night issued a Statement of Administration Policy in support of the delayed implementation proposal, which was submitted by congressional leaders who are committed to a legislative repeal this year.

    “The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in a statement. “The path forward crafted by the President, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted.

    “If enacted this welcomed compromise will create a process for the President and the Pentagon to implement a new policy for lesbian and gay service members to serve our country openly, hopefully within a matter of a few months,” Sarvis said. “This builds upon the support Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed for open service during the February hearing in the Senate, and further underscores that this Administration is committed to open service.”

    —  John Wright

    BREAKING NEWS: Deal possible on DADT

    The Advocate is reporting that representatives from Congress, the White House and LGBT groups were working on a deal this morning that would allow a legislative repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” to go forward this year. The proposed repeal of the military’s ban on open service is expected to be considered in both the House and Senate later in the week. From The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld:

    LGBT groups met with officials at the White House while legislative affairs representatives from the White House and the Department of Defense met with the House and Senate leadership offices on Capitol Hill along with those of Rep. Patrick Murphy and Sens. Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman.

    A White House aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the White House meeting. “Our understanding is that Congress is determined to act this week and we are learning more about their proposal now,” said the aide.

    A Democratic leadership aide called the development “promising” but said discussions were ongoing. The House Democratic leadership is expected to meet about the proposal later this afternoon.

    According to one person familiar with the White House meeting, the proposal that is being considered would legislatively repeal the statute this year, but the current policy would remain in place and implementation of repeal would not occur until after the Pentagon’s working group study is finished in December. Further, completion of repeal would require certification from President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen that the new law will not have a negative impact on readiness, recruitment, retention and other key factors that affect the military.

    Also this morning, we received an update on the DADT repeal from Dave Guy-Gainer, a Tarrant County resident who serves on the board of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. I’ve posted Guy-Gainer’s update after the jump.

    —  John Wright

    Mark Reed reflects on arrest for chaining self to White House fence during DADT rally

    Mark Reed, far right, was released from jail Monday and ordered to pay a $100 fine.
    Mark Reed, far right, was released from jail after 24 hours on Monday and ordered to pay a $100 fine.

    Ironically, as he stood with one arm handcuffed to the White House fence on Sunday afternoon, Dallas activist Mark Reed says he felt “liberated.”

    Reed, a successful business owner who’s in his early 50s, said he’d never been arrested before and hadn’t even had a traffic ticket in 10 years.

    In fact, he’d always figured that if he were arrested, he’d probably faint due to his fear of authorities.

    Strangely, though, that didn’t happen.

    —  John Wright

    Texas congressman calls protesters who hurled anti-gay epithets 'polite, respectful'

    A day after they screamed racist and anti-gay slurs at members of Congress, U.S. Rep. John Culberson, a Republican from Houston, praised Tea Party protesters as being “polite and respectful.” According to Media Matters, Culberson’s comments can be heard as he narrates the above video, which he reportedly shot yesterday from the steps of the Capitol. But Culberson wasn’t alone in defending the Tea Party protesters and trying to downplay their hateful actions. From Roll Call

    Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a leading voice in the tea party movement, said Sunday that protesters’ recent use of racial and homophobic slurs toward Members of Congress was no big deal.

    “I just don’t think it’s anything,” King said, emphasizing that the incidents were isolated. “There are a lot of places in this country that I couldn’t walk through. I wouldn’t live to get to the other end of it.”

    To focus on a few incidents is “embellishing something that is determined to undermine the people,” said the Iowa conservative.

    King’s remarks come a day after tea party protesters spat on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and shouted a racial slur at Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.); both are African-American. A protester also shouted a sexual slur at Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is openly gay.

    Another Republican lawmaker also brushed off the racial epithets and suggested they were prompted by the parliamentary maneuvers being used by Democrats to pass a health care bill.

    “When you use a totalitarian tactics, people, you know, begin to act crazy,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Sunday on C-SPAN. “I think that people have every right to say what they want. If they want to smear someone, they can do it.”

    Nunes added that the slurs were “not appropriate” but that he would “stop short of characterizing the 20,000 people protesting, that all of them were doing that.”

    Update: A member of the Texas delegation is also suspected of yelling “baby killer” at Rep. Bart Stupak during last night’s debate, but The Dallas Morning News has been unable to determine who was responsible. Culberson has reportedly denied responsibility.

    UPDATE NO. 2: Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a Republican from Lubbock, has admitted to the “baby killer” remark and apologized, The DMN reports. Neugebauer has issued an apology:

    “Last night was the climax of weeks and months of debate on a health care bill that my constituents fear and do not support. In the heat and emotion of the debate, I exclaimed the phrase ‘it’s a baby killer’ in reference to the agreement reached by the Democratic leadership. While I remain heartbroken over the passage of this bill and the tragic consequences it will have for the unborn, I deeply regret that my actions were mistakenly interpreted as a direct reference to Congressman Stupak himself. I have apologized to Mr. Stupak and also apologize to my colleagues for the manner in which I expressed my disappointment about the bill. The House Chamber is a place of decorum and respect. The timing and tone of my comment last night was inappropriate.”

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    —  John Wright