The state of queer rights: From Washington, D.C., to Washington State

Originally published August 15, 2012 in PQ Monthly.

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

From the president’s support of marriage equality to the fight for the freedom to marry in Washington State, it’s been an eventful, and mostly positive, year for LGBTQ rights — and it seems poised to get even better. But before we look at the battles on the horizon, let’s review some of the year’s highlights.


  • Maine became the first state to proactively seek marriage equality via the ballot.
  •  Delaware and Hawaii become the seventh and eight states to enact civil unions laws.
  • Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley sign marriage equality into law. (Both laws face challenges on the ballot; more on the Washington referendum after the recap).
  •  Bans on same-sex marriage were ruled unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Proposition 8), U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White (Defense of Marriage Act), the First Circuit Court of Appeals (DOMA), U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken (DOMA), and a federal judge in Connecticut (DOMA).
  • President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
  • The Democratic Party’s draft platform includes support for marriage equality and a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and awaits approval at the national convention in September.
  • Protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity were adopted at Texas A&M University and in Baltimore County, Maryland; South Bend, Indiana; Omaha, Nebraska; Harrisville, Utah,; and Springville, Utah.
  • Rep. Tammy Baldwin is poised to follow up her tenure as the first out lesbian member of Congress by becoming the first out lesbian in the Senate.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service affirmed that the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.


Not bad for the first eight months. But as the November elections approach, there is much work to be done. Close to home, the biggest battle is in Washington, where voters will weigh in on marriage equality via Referendum 74.

The bill would grant same-sex couples the right to marry while allowing religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Washington United for Marriage raised more than $3.3 million in July to support the Yes on R-74 campaign, thanks to a $2.5 million donation from owners Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. The organization will use the funds on advertising and other campaign efforts.

Aside from donating to the campaign and (of course) voting “yes” on Nov. 6, how can supporters of marriage equality in SW Washington support the fight for equality?

Drew Griffin, lead organizer for Equality Southwest Washington and campaign manager for Approve Ref. 74, suggests connecting with Washington United for Marriage.

Vancouverites will have an opportunity to do just that Aug. 21 when WUM outreach specialist Maren Lundgren comes to town for a speakers’ bureau training. Contact Lundgren at for more information.

But what about Oregonians? Though folks living south of the Columbia River can’t support R-74 with a vote, they can and should support the fight for equality in Washington, Griffin says.

“With Washington being Oregon’s closest neighbor, we need their help raising money as well as canvassing and phone banking. It is understood that Basic Rights Oregon wants to challenge Oregon’s marriage law in 2014 and they will have a greater opportunity for success if Washington is an equality state,” Griffin says. “The fight for marriage equality in Oregon is does not start in 2014, it’s starting right here in Washington and the more people from Oregon get accustom[ed] to working toward this equality goal, the better chance they will have for victory in 2014. I want Oregon residents to know this is their fight, too, and if they want a state that does not discriminate under the law, a state that sees all people in the state as equal, and help change the political landscape in our country, now is the time to get involved.”

To learn more about the Approve Ref. 74 campaign, visit

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