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Will Prop 8 Ruling Protect Marriage in Washington?

Marriage equality Videos

By Matt Baume

Prop 8’s unconstitutional, Washington’s passing its marriage equality bill, Illinois just introduced a bill of their own, we’re making more progress in Maryland, and now New Mexico has pulled a proposed anti-gay marriage law. I told you 2012 was going to be busy.

There are four big things you need to know about last week’s ruling.

First, it is a huge deal that for the first time ever, a federal appeals court has said that it’s unconstitutional to ban marriage equality. Second, the court ruled that there is no legitimate reason for singling out LGBTs for denying equal protection.

Third, this ruling isn’t just for California. The Ninth Circuit is the largest circuit in the country, and this ruling is a binding precedent from Alaska to Nevada. So if any of those states ever grant marriage equality and then try to take it away, this ruling says, in essence, “stop. Don’t. The 14th Amendment protects minority groups.”

We’ll talk more about that in just a minute.

And fourth, it’s a big big deal that the court rejected the homophobic argument that the District Court judge should have recused himself when he disclosed that he’s gay. Each of those points is a huge victory, and they won’t be our last.

So now let’s talk about Washington. By the time you watch this, the Governor will probably have signed marriage equality into law. But just like in California with Prop 8, the law doesn’t take effect right away. Anti-gay activists have a few months to gather signatures to stop us from marrying. They could try to overturn the law with a referendum, which requires about 120,000 signatures and would delay the law’s start until after the election in November. Or they could try to invalidate it with an initiative, which would require 240,000 signatures, but it would probably allow marriages to start sometime between now and the election. Or they could do both, but that could work against them if voters get confused about two competing anti-gay measures.

Right now, it’s unclear how the ruling in the Prop 8 case will affect Washington State. But Washington is in the Ninth Circuit. And our ruling says that it’s unconstitutional to take away marriage once it’s been granted. So we’ll be keeping a close eye on those developments.

Meanwhile, a new survey in New Hampshire shows that 62 percent of residents oppose attempts to take away that state’s marriage rights.

And in New Jersey, a new survey shows that public opinion favors marriage equality with an 11-point lead, 48 to 37 percent. Marriage equality bills are up for a vote in the Senate on Monday, February 13, and in the Assembly on Thursday.

Also on Monday, the 13th: a lobby day in Maryland. On Friday of last week, Maryland committees debated dueling bills; one would have granted marriage equality, while the other one bans it.

And in the midwest, Illinois lawmakers have introduced a marriage equality bill, less than a year after signing civil unions into law. And an attempt to strengthen New Mexico’s prohibition on marriage equality has finally been scrapped.

Finally this week, Australia will begin debate on four separate marriage bills. The votes on those bills are still a long way off, probably in late 2012, as politicians work to secure a stronger coalition for support.

Visit for up-to-the-minute news alerts on all these stories and more. And for more on the federal fight to overturn Prop 8 and win full federal marriage equality, visit I’m Matt Baume at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We’ll see you next week.


  • 1. DaveP  |  February 13, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Wow. These days there is so much progress and godo news that I really can't quite keep up with all of it. Awesome.

  • 2. Alan_Eckert  |  February 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    The biggest difference is that Washington has a specific system for rejecting actions by legislature so that the law does not go into effect yet. It could be argued that the rights were not given yet. I see where it seems like the Prop 8 ruling could affect Washington, but I don't think it is as strong of an argument it appears with this specific scenario.

    IANAL of course.

  • 3. MightyAcorn  |  February 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for these summaries…it's hard to keep track of all our progress otherwise. :)

  • 4. MightyAcorn  |  February 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Here's the link to the WA State signing ceremony today. It's thirty minutes long, but you can watch it in pieces. I'm sure you'll be hooked in the first few moments, watching Gov. gregoire tear up a little as she is thanked for her leadership:

    "Friends, welcome to the other side of the rainbow!" Amen.

  • 5. Judy  |  February 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I've loved this site since the original trial, but haven't weighed in lately. I wonder if you good people would consider signing this petition and hopefully share the link on your Facebook page and elsewhere. I'm trying to get as many signatures as possible, but my avenues are limited. Jack In The Box has the lowest rating on HRC scale, and has a homophobic anti-same sex ad running on television currently. Please take a look. Signing and sharing are easy – I promise.
    Please SIGN and SHARE petition to get Jack In The Box to stop homophobic ad:

  • 6. Rich  |  February 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Judy, just signed…thank you for the heads-up.

  • 7. Bob  |  February 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    amazing speaches,,, well done,,,, it's signed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! woot wooot to Washington,,,,,,, thank you

  • 8. Dingleberry  |  February 13, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    What is NEXT a man wanting to marry his car? After all he is in "LOVE" with this car!

  • 9. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  February 13, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    As soon as an inanimate object like a car can stand up and request it's equality than lets talk…..until than your statement is as ridiculous as all the others against marriage equality.

  • 10. Dingleberry  |  February 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Lighten up. Hence look at my name. Chill. lol

  • 11. Dennis Dunnum  |  February 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Unfortunately, NM Rep. David Chavez (R – who'd a guessed) just reintroduced his anti-gay marriage bill – to be heard in the Public Affairs Committee tomorrow – on Valentines Day no less.

  • 12. misken  |  February 13, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Don't forget this big news out of SurveyUSA:

    This is one of the most recent same-sex marriage polls done in California as I remember it, and it is running 61-34-5 Support-Oppose-Undecided. This is undoubtedly amazing news!

  • 13. Straight Dave  |  February 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    That might not be quite as good as it looks on the surface. The exact question asked was "Should same-sex couples be able to share in the legal benefits of marriage?" So I would be hesitant to label this "same-sex marriage", per se.

    There is still a huge gap between support for "all the rights" and "the name", which usually makes me believe that the opponents know darn well that separate is not at all equal. Show me a strict marriage poll and I'll be more impressed.

  • 14. Bill S.  |  February 14, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Did Prop 8 really forbid taking away marriage once it had been granted, or did it forbid *voting to deny marriage rights even though they already have all the same rights and privileges.*

    I don't see the important factor being the "taken away" because Prop 8 didn't actually take away anybody's marriage. It denied *prospective* couples the right to marry. The court found that the people had no rational basis to vote the way they did because Prop 8 was too narrow to actually effect any of the purported bases it was supposed to bring about. The same question applies here: will the voters of Washington have a rational basis to vote for this anti-gay initiative?

    Granted, the circumstances are probably different enough such that a District Court would not grant summary judgement. It would require another trial, another appeals process, etc.

  • 15. RocheDen  |  February 14, 2012 at 6:47 am

    NJ Gov Chris Christie has said he'll veto the same sex marriage bill that the NJ senate passed yesterday and the NJ house is expected to pass Thursday. Let's start a campaign to have him openly discuss the issue with NY State Senator Mark Grisanti – a (Catholic) Republican who was against same sex marriage until he did legal research about it.

  • 16. fiona64  |  February 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Bill, part of the decision involved the fact that a right was stripped from same-sex couples who had been enjoying it.

  • 17. James Sweet  |  February 14, 2012 at 10:17 am

    It's a little misleading to say that this ruling applies beyond California. The rest of that paragraph is accurate — that if any of the other states in the 9th Circuit grant marriage equality and then take it away (while leaving in place all of the incidents of marriage), then it would apply. But the odds of that sequence of events actually occurring are slim to none.

    In practice, this ruling applies to California and only to California.

  • 18. Leo  |  February 14, 2012 at 10:39 am

    I'm pretty sure it didn't forbid voting. It invalidated a specific provision of the California Constitution while taking into account the circumstances of its enactment.

  • 19. Carpool Cookie  |  February 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Yeah. A lot of people need to "lighten up" about Civil Rights issues (not)

    Do you tell ethnic jokes, too? Can't wait.

  • 20. DaveP  |  February 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    THANK YOU so much for posting that link to the signing ceremony. For anyone who hasn't seen it yet, I encourage you to watch. That was wonderful!

  • 21. Dingleberry  |  February 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Seems to me the people responding to my message obviously can't take dry humor. If you can't take this simple type of humor then you have a problem. I am gay does this explain enough that I am on your side? Take a deep breath already. You have to turn the idiocy of the radical right into humor because it will just drive you crazy if you keep taking my dry humor to heart. If a bigot told me that I would go along with it as if I find it humorous. Lighten up already dear.

  • 22. Bill S.  |  February 15, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Correct. It would require another trial under different circumstances. However, I think this case would still set incredibly influential precedent.

    The major tenet of the ruling is that Proposition 8 was too narrow to actually effect any of the bases that it was supposed to bring about. I think the ruling could be used as influential even if Washington didn't pass the marriage equality law. Does the State of Washington, having granted all the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples, have a rational basis in withholding only the name "marriage" from them? What basis is advanced by this policy?

    I think the "taking away" further cemented the notion that it was due to animus. But the ruling of the 9th Circuit seemed to indicate that if Prop 8 had actually gone further, and stripped more rights regarding parenting, etc. it may have actually advanced a potentially rational basis offered by the proponents.

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