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Originally published Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 3:14 PM

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Same-sex couples strengthen and affirm basic family values

Respect the commitments and responsibilities of same-sex couples and include them in Washington's marriage laws. The Washington Legislature can strengthen the institution of marriage by acknowledging gays and lesbians with their lawful recognition. This is all about families.

Seattle Times editorial columnist

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The most conservative, family-affirming vote the Washington Legislature could cast would be to legalize same-sex marriage. A strong endorsement of community, personal responsibility and commitment.

Gays and lesbians want to get married. Imagine, respect for an institution increasingly ignored by others.

In recent years, legislators have revised state laws to provide the statutory equivalent of marriage. Efforts to rescind those changes were rebuffed by voters for reasons that were at the heart of this newspaper's editorial support for Referendum 71. It was all about families.

Enough with the euphemisms: civil unions and same-sex partnerships. The proper and appropriate word for the bonding of a couple who wish to make a commitment in front of the world and to one another is marriage.

Gays and lesbians seek the civic and social recognition that fully creates a family in our culture. Acknowledge and respect the legal obligations and public commitment being made.

This is a marital relationship not dictated, directed or precluded by religious affiliation, expectations or traditions. No burdens are imposed on religious institutions, or their creeds, ceremonies or expression. No house of worship is forced to marry anyone.

On one level, same-sex marriage is an extension of the historical role of connubial accounting. Keeping track of property and responsibility for children. Marriage conveys and clarifies rights and benefits for couples, but the underlying legal commitment is foundational in society. Or so we keep hearing.

Marital bliss is having a tough go. Divorce rates are soaring and marriage is increasingly spurned as irrelevant or unnecessary.

If television programming serves as any cultural touchstone — and the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing exactly that argument over profanity and nudity on network channels — then harken back to early sitcoms. Chaste scenes of married couples in separate beds have now been replaced by young unmarrieds shopping for houses on reality TV.

The culture swapped the term unwed mother for single mom, dumping all the burdens and responsibilities on the females. By the way, where the hell are the single dads?

I respect the politicians in Olympia and local government stepping forward to endorse same-sex marriage. Elected officials in both parties have had soulful changes of heart. All politics is indeed local, but the conversations have moved on. Nothing like sustained economic turmoil to refocus priorities.

The topic du jour is the tension between the highs and lows of financial status. Loving couples that want to get married? Not on anyone's radar.

Millenials and Gen-Xers barely bother to answer the pollster's question. The generational divide is evident, and they vote. Even the reluctance among baby boomers is narrowing. It is simply not an issue that stirs attention. Gays in the military — the discussion is over.

Ten nations, as disparate as Norway, Spain and South Africa, have made same-sex marriage legal. Six states, including Iowa and Maine, have same-sex marriage. The transitional phase of civil unions is the law in 20 countries and 11 states.

Pondering theology and market share, organized religion is all over the map. Scarcely anyone takes notice. The credibility of detached, pious fraternities of moral arbiters has been on thin ice, or under indictment, in recent years.

This is and remains an issue about the sanctity of families. For loving couples and legions of children with attentive, responsible parents there is no issue. Respect and honor their commitment. Embrace them within the state's marriage laws.

Lance Dickie's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is ldickie@seattletimes.com


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