April 2012 Bar Bulletin
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April 2012 Bar Bulletin

Same-Sex Marriage Must Withstand Challenges

By Elaine G. DuCharme


Washington joined six other states and the District of Columbia when Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 on February 13, allowing same-sex couples to marry. The Act also repeals Washington's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The law's effective date is June 7, unless it is delayed by Referendum 74, which would repeal the act and was filed within hours of the governor's signature. If Referendum 74 receives 121,577 valid signatures by July 6, the issue will be placed on the November general election ballot. No other state has endorsed gay marriage by popular vote as those states recognizing same-sex marriage have done so either through the courts or legislative action.

Opponents also filed Initiative 1192, which requires 241,153 valid voter signatures by July 6 to be placed on the November ballot. I-1192 would reinstate DOMA (RCW 26.04.020), which prohibits marriages between any persons other than "a male and a female." The initiative also would change RCW 26.04.010 to provide that marriage is "a civil contract between one man and one woman" and it would further prohibit the recognition of valid same-sex marriages entered into in other jurisdictions.

The language of both measures has been hotly contested by both opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage. Washington United for Marriage (an organization formed to support equality in marriage) challenged the language released by the Attorney General's Office.

Referendum 74

The AGO's proposed Referendum 74 language (exclusive of the ballot summary) stated as follows:

The bill would redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, modify existing domestic partnership laws, allow clergy to refuse to solemnize or recognize marriages and religious organizations to refuse to accommodate marriage celebrations.

"Redefine marriage" mirrored the language proposed and utilized by the opponents of same-sex marriage. A Google search using "redefine marriage" leads mostly to links to sites reflecting conservative and religious opposition to gay marriage.

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