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Originally published Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Editorial: It's time for Washington voters to approve same-sex marriage

Approve Referendum 74 to legalize same-sex marriage. The state Legislature passed it. Gov. Gregoire signed it. Voters should approve it.

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Washington voters have been asked to approve a law that celebrates the family values that empower the state and respects religious freedom. They should vigorously approve Referendum 74 and legalize same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a bill that allows same-sex couples to marry. A petition campaign put the measure on the November ballot.

Voters are asked if they accept the proposal to expand equal rights, and the wholly appropriate response is, "I do."

The same law that extends the right to marry to all committed couples and loving families also protects the free exercise and expression of religious values and creeds. No religious institution is required to marry a same-sex couple or bless their union.

Washington's pending law understands, encourages and supports families in all their contemporary expressions.

Marriage is in part about a couple making a public declaration of their private commitment. Washington moved over the years to make the rights, responsibilities and obligations of a civil union available to same-sex couples.

Domestic partnerships were about legal rights and prerogatives. They were essential to the practical aspects of a life together, from hospital visitations to raising a family.

The word lost in the formalities of lawmaking was "love." One central lesson is that love is patient. Legislators and community leaders built a path toward their goal. In 2009, when the domestic-partnership law was referred to voters, it was strongly approved.

The public recognizes the right of same-sex couples to marry has no impact on the lives and choices of heterosexual couples.

These very personal decisions are driven by the powerful desire to create and nurture loving, supportive relationships and build families. Society benefits.

Over time, it was apparent that expansions of law that provided for "everything but marriage" were incomplete. The goal, the fullest expression of love, was marriage.

That desire is being codified around the United States and around the world. Diverse groups concerned with human rights and civil rights endorse same-sex marriage.

The NAACP supports marriage equality as a right under the 14th Amendment. Laws that once forbid interracial marriage are not ancient history.

The U.S. military ended its ban on gays openly serving their country. Local, state and national politicians are speaking out for a basic human right and the social stability that comes with marriage.

The law behind R-74 moves same-sex marriage from a legal contract to a covenant. Two people in love are empowered with the rights, duties and responsibilities to build a life together as a married couple.

Once again the state must act together. Mark the ballot to Approve R-74. Love does not fail.

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