From the Revised Code of Washington, RCW 26.04.010:
(1) Marriage is a civil contract between ((a male and a female)) two persons who have each attained the age of eighteen years, and who are otherwise capable.
On Monday, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a bill that gave same gender couples the right to marry.
The language in the bill changed "one man and one woman" to "two persons" and spent a lot of time outlining protections for churches and religious organizations to refuse to conduct marriages for same gender couples.
People supporting the marriage equality bill rejoiced, and people opposed to marriage equality began planning initiative efforts to overthrow the bill.
Opponents often base their opposition in religious terms and cite conservative interpretations of the Bible. However, not all believers agree with those interpretations. Last Thursday, a group of people began a walk to Olympia in support of marriage equality legislation. Their sponsors were the Vancouver United Church of Christ and the Portland/Vancouver Community of Welcoming Congregations, a group of churches from several different denominations who have chosen to support gay rights and full inclusion of gays in religious life.
When they arrived in Longview, they were treated to a lasagna dinner at the Longview United Methodist Church, and after dinner, a panel of gay and straight people commented on what marriage equality means for them.
One gay man, sitting with his partner, recalled the fear and terror he had lived with as a teenager unsure of what life would offer him as a gay man. "This bill tells me that I can have a normal life," he said.
"Anything less than marriage is a second class relationship," said a gay woman, who has been in a partnership for 17 years.
While supporters of marriage equality point out that the issue is one of civil law, not religious law, there are religious leaders who do support it.
At the rally in Longview, pastors from Methodist and Presbyterian churches said that while their supervisors say to have nothing to do with same gender weddings, they support marriage equality. Pastors from United Church of Christ and Unitarian/Universalists said their denominations do allow marriages of same gender couples.
One of the people testifying before the state Senate last week was Bishop Chris Boerger, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Northwest Washington Synod. He said he was in favor of gay couples being able to have legally-recognized marriages that are equal in the state.
"The reality is, the Lutheran church has always held that it is the state that defines what marriage is; it's the church that then blesses people who enter into that relationship," he said. "We have now stated our desire to bless those who are publicly accountable in lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships. We can't call it marriage--you can. That's why I am here today to say there will be those in my church who will not participate; we understand that freedom. There are those who want to, and we ask for that freedom."
When the House had its hearings later in the week, Republican Rep. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla broke ranks with her party.
"Well, yes, it is about equality," she said. "And why in the world would we not allow those equal rights for individuals who are truly committed to one another in life to be able to show that in the way of a marriage.
"My daughter came out of the closet a couple of years ago, and you know what, I thought I was going to agonize about that.
"Nothing’s different. She’s still a fabulous human being and she met someone she loves very much. And some day, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid. And someday I hope that’s what I can do. I hope she will not feel like a second-class citizen involved in something called a 'domestic partnership' which frankly sounds like a Mary Maids franchise to me."
It seems very clear to me that marriage is about two people coming together for a variety of reasons and benefits that range from emotional to economical. It provides for the security of their families.
Why would we want to exclude people from this? I can't think of a good reason.
In the coming months, I hope everyone will join in celebrating the arrival of marriage equality and the end of another form of discrimination and unequal treatment of fellow citizens.