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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Good News for Gays

posted by on April 26 at 14:03 PM

Iowa is one signature away from becoming the 19th state to enact civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.

New Hampshire today passed a civil unions law that provides same-sex couples in that state—that famously Republican state—with all the rights and obligations of marriage. Well, the rights and obligations the state can provide—married same-sex couples in Massachusetts and same-sex couples with civil unions in New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut, and soon Oregon.

New Hampshire lawmakers authorized same-sex civil unions on Thursday, in a bill that will complete New England’s transformation into a unique U.S. region where gay and lesbian couples have some form of legal recognition and conjugal rights.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 14-10 along party lines to give gays and lesbians nearly the same rights as married couples. The bill sailed through the House of Representatives on April 4, and Democratic Gov. John Lynch said last week he would sign it.

New Hampshire, known for its official motto “Live Free or Die,” will become the fourth U.S. state to allow same-sex civil unions when the law takes effect on Jan 1. The law marks a shift in the state’s traditionally conservative politics.

I’m pro the domestic partnership law that Ed Murray and Jamie Pedersen got through the state legislature this year, even if it is very limited in scope. But its increasingly clear that Washington state, even with our new domestic partnership law, is behind the curve on this issue. It would be nice if next year we could say that the entire West Coast of the United States (California, Oregon, and Washington state), like all of New England, recognized the rights and dignity of same-sex couples.

No more piecemeal efforts. Full marriage rights or civil unions.

RSS icon Comments


It's called "underreach. "

Looks like Murray and Pedersen and McDermott were adhering to the Chopp model.

Posted by Josh Feit | April 26, 2007 2:22 PM

By far the most important thing that we can all do is contact our legislators. The biggest problem in Washington State is apathy - and I mean total apathy.

Sure we can get 200,000 people to show up for the Pride parade, but only 1,500 of us went to Olympia to ask our legislators to pass the domestic partnership and marriage equality bills - which was only covered by the Seattle Gay News. If 200,000 of us had appeared in Olympia on February 26th, we would have full equality now.

So, stop bitching on a blog and do something about it.

E-mail or call today; it takes 3 freakin’ minutes.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 26, 2007 2:43 PM

I predict that next session substantial additional progress will be made. Our gay legislators and their fair-minded colleagues have mapped this out............And yes, they will need additional assistance from us to lobby, like I did this session.

Posted by stay tuned | April 26, 2007 2:54 PM

Do Maine and RI have civil unions?

Posted by Mike | April 26, 2007 3:03 PM

Progress is progress. It should be celebrated, no matter how limited. But it is just a stepping stone to further progress! (Look! The sky didn't fall -- there will be no harm in granting FULL rights to gay and lesbian and trans people . . .)

Keep up the fight, good voters of Washington!

Posted by Sachi | April 26, 2007 3:03 PM

does someone know (or can you point me to a link): what are the rights covered in other states' DP laws that aren't in the new WA one? I know WA just covers health care & death-related benefits, but what else do other states have?

Posted by me | April 26, 2007 3:04 PM

Sachi @ 5 is absolutely correct.

It's very difficult to bring positive change to this country and every victory should be appreciated.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 26, 2007 3:07 PM

me @ 6,

These links are pretty thorough, and the situation is changing rapidly. Oregon will most likely have domestic partnerships with all of the state level rights of marriage any day now, for example.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 26, 2007 3:15 PM

And I’d like to add this from the Wikipedia entry on Same Sex Marriage:

"Among those US states that are most opposed to same sex marriage which have also provided divorce data for the time period — AR, KS, KY, MI, MS, MO, NE, NV, ND, OH, OK, OR, UT, TX — the average divorce rate ( unadjusted for population changes ) for 2004 and 2005 increased 1.75%. This group contains 4 of the 5 states with the highest divorce rate increases in the US during 2004 and the first 11 months of 2005.

The one state in the United States of America that has legal same sex marriage, Massachusetts, will be among the top ten states - or better - with the largest drop in divorce rates in America during 2004 and 2005."

It’s quite likely that a US map showing domestic partnership/civil union/marriage equality will look a hell of a lot like the old free states vs. slave states maps from the 1800s for similar reasons.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 26, 2007 3:22 PM

Though I'll grant you that New Hampshire has been a traditionally Republican state, they are not currently swinging that way (they went for Kerry in '04 and their governor and both their Reps. are Democrats). Plus, I have always thought of NH being Republican in sort of the same way Alaska is Republican -- like a "don't touch our guns or our weed" sort of Libertarian way...

Not to be picky or anything... obviously, yay civil unions.

Posted by Julie | April 26, 2007 3:45 PM

Though I'll grant you that New Hampshire has been a traditionally Republican state, they are not currently swinging that way (they went for Kerry in '04 and their governor and both their Reps. are Democrats). Plus, I have always thought of NH being Republican in sort of the same way Alaska is Republican -- like a "don't touch our guns or our weed" sort of Libertarian way...

Not to be picky or anything... obviously, yay civil unions.

Posted by Julie | April 26, 2007 3:46 PM

@ 4: Maine has civil unions, and Rhode Island recognizes marriages performed in Massachusetts.

Posted by Megan | April 26, 2007 4:03 PM

I agree that every victory should be celebrated, but the whole separate but equal thing is still so disturbing at a gut level. Among all the more meaningful reasons why we need to have full marriage equality is in what shorthand way are gay couples who are de facto married supposed to describe their relationship status? "We're civilly committed" just doesn't evoke the cultural resonance and comprehension of "we're married." A sure indicator of not so equal status. At least if we got rid of marriage as a state-sanctioned institution, we could all equally be "civilly committed."

Posted by Bill LaBorde | April 26, 2007 4:09 PM

Bill LaBorde @ 13,

Dude, I’m with you on not going down Separate But Equal Street, but we have to accept the fact that the US is a right-wing country and most Americans are ambivalent or openly hostile to our needs.

And getting rid of civil marriage is the last thing the Talibangelical Christians want to hear when they’re convulsing on the kitchen floor and bloviating about how we’re all ah-gonna fry in hay-ell.

One of the reasons we’re such a huge mess as a country is that no one ever learns anything from history, like the anti-marriage equality arguments are almost word for word identical to the anti-interracial marriage hysteria of the 20th century.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 26, 2007 4:36 PM

Don't forget, you can always marry in BC and then, under NAFTA, it's a legal marriage.

At some point, this will end up in the courts, of course.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 26, 2007 5:15 PM

Yay for Iowa! (I'm from there, you know)

This ALMOST makes up for the state going red in 2004 (I still think there was something fishy about that) but it doesn't at all make up for Representative Steve King, who is Iowa's most embarassing export.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | April 26, 2007 5:42 PM

I popped in to say what Julie @ 10 said - last Nov. we pretty much swept the bums out. A popular D governor won with almost 75% of the vote, both houses went D, one after more than 100 years of R rule. We sent two D reps to congress, and the only reason we still have two R sens is they weren't up for re-election.

Regarding separate but equal - I'm on the fence. Not being gay, I could simply "not get it". But a civil union is all the State recognizes, anyway. If two people are married, they might have just gone the JoP route, and filled out the paperwork. Gays can say the same, as far as I'm concerned, and if the rights & obs *truly* are equal, it's the same thing. What the state is not bothering to mess with are the marriages blessed by clergy of various churches. And who wants to be "married" by a group that hates you?

And, lastly, as @15, yup, I'm surprised this hasn't hit the courts yet - maybe no married MA gays couples *want* to go live somewhere that would generate a test case! And the longer it's legal, here, there, and everywhere, the more lives get unfairly messed up if some federal court gets stoopid.

Posted by Huw | April 26, 2007 6:27 PM

Huw @ 17, your heart is in the right place, but you are a little jumbled on your facts. I can see you're trying, but you don't quite "get it".

The word "marriage" actually has two very different meanings. There is church marriage, and there is civil marriage. The church marriage is what happens in the church ceremony (obviously), and civil marriage is the paperwork you sign with the county records (or whatever) that legally declares you as married. The two are often merged in most people's minds. But it is perfectly permissible to walk down to the courthouse and get legally married without stepping foot in a church. Likewise, it is possible to get married in a church, but never do the paperwork, and the marriage has no legal standing. It is common that the priest/minister in most church weddings also does the legal paperwork and files it with the county records, which leads to this confusion that both are the same thing.

The problem with "civil unions", what makes it "separate but equal", but in reality less than equal, is that if I "marry" a person of the opposite sex, my marriage is legally recognized in every state in the country, and by the federal government, and by pretty much every employer in the country, and by pretty much any other country I care to visit on the globe. And I instantly get all of the rights and benefits granted to married couples wherever I go.

If I get "civil unioned" to a person of the same sex, my union is only valid in the state that I got unioned. This may grant me some or all of the state rights and benefits of marriage, so long as I never cross the state line. The minute I travel outside the state, my civil union papers become useless scrap. And even if I never leave my own state, the Federal Government doesn't recognize civil unions, so it is useless in regards to federal taxes, social security benefits for spouses, retirement or medical benefits for military and federal employees, and so on. In addition, many employers won't recognize civil unions, and deny spousal benefits to partners of civil unions (depends on the state, and what state the employer is based out of).

So, at best, civil unions grant gay people a handful of the rights and benefits that heterosexual marriage grants. Progress, yes. Better than nothing, yes. Moving in the right direction, yes. But equal? Not by a long shot.

Posted by SDA in SEA | April 26, 2007 8:42 PM

Rep.s Pedersen and McDermott have done more to move this than any other legislator. Maybe they can lend State Sen Ed Murray some balls. He needs a pair. He has undercut and underachieved on these issues for over a decade.

Posted by JackNasty | April 26, 2007 9:27 PM

@12 Maine doesnt have civil unions, they only have DP like CA and DC and OR will have. It still seems like 3rd place. so it goes:

Marriage *full state equiv*: MA

Civil Unions *full state equiv*: CT, NJ, (NH)

Domestic Partnership *full state equiv*: CA, ME, DC, (OR)

Domestic Partnership *some rights*: WA

Rhode Island (like Israel) has no doma and has decided that marriages performed elsewhere are valid in state. This is also significant to the new NH law as even tho they have a doma, their new law says that it will recognize marriages from elsewhere (namely mass and canada) as civil unions.

Posted by the dirty details | April 26, 2007 11:41 PM

RI will recognize same-sex marriages from MA, but it's presenting new problems for them. Same-sex divorce wasn't something they had to deal with before...

Posted by amy! | April 27, 2007 4:04 AM

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