We did it, Washington. The one vote needed to legalize same-sex marriage in June, so long as no one files a referendum against the new bill, has been cast. I can already smell the equality from here.
On Monday, the bill was presented in two separate public hearings to the House committee and the Senate committee. There were six undecided representatives who could potentially be that last vote. The final spot was ultimately taken by Mary Margaret Haugen of the Senate. Odds were the bill allowing same-sex couples to get married would pass, but it is still an amazing feeling to know that it did.
Now that it has passed, Washington is the seventh state to legalize gay marriage — the eighth total including Washington D.C. Eight out of fifty-one is pretty bad statistically, but hey, progress is progress. The state of Washington already supported same-sex domestic partnerships that grant same-sex couples many of the same benefits that married couples have by law. The passing of this bill will ensure all married couples have equal rights and benefits.
When the bill is put into effect in June those in domestic partnerships will have two years to either get legally married or break-up. Those who choose neither of these options will be automatically upgraded to marriage status at the end of the two years. It sounds a bit weird, like the government is forcing people to get married, so I am curious as to what kind of opposition this particular part of the bill could bring about. We will just have to wait and see.
Microsoft Corporation is one of the bigger companies that supported the bill. The Washington-based company sent an official letter to the governor stating its support in a single to-the-point sentence. Microsoft's Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith emphasized their reasons for support on the company's official blog. According to Smith, Microsoft wants to be able to provide all its employees the same benefits. By supporting same-sex marriage, Microsoft clearly shows its support for the LGBT community and their families, and hopes to attract new skilled employees to live in Washington and work at Microsoft.
Nike, Group Health Cooperative and several other companies also support the bill and its message.
Those who support the bill cite a change in culture as the reason behind the bill's success. As more people are coming out as gay and lesbian, their friends, families and coworkers are learning to accept them and understand their need for equal rights.
Of course, there is still a lot of opposition from religious and conservative groups, many of them presented at the hearing on Monday. However, the opposition presented by these groups and people did not prevent the bill from receiving all 25 necessary votes.
Besides, they might change their minds when they see the amount of money the bill's passage will potentially bring in. A report done by the Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that the state of Washington could rake in up to $88 million in the first few years after the bill's passage. $13.5 million in taxes and an estimated $18 million increase in spending will represent the bulk of this money. It looks like the jokes about the creation of gay bridal registries saving the economy were not far off. $88 million in three years may not save the economy, but it will definitely help.
It has been too long a wait for equality in a liberal-dominated state. Finally we are one step closer to actual equality, and I could not be happier about that. We can be proud of our progress as a state and as a people.