Ryan Blethen / Times editorial columnist
Marriage equality migrates north
Being a born and bred Washingtonian has tainted my view of Californians. Seattle was a fine provincial town before they migrated north. These fast-talking Californians brought with...
Being a born and bred Washingtonian has tainted my view of Californians. Seattle was a fine provincial town before they migrated north.
These fast-talking Californians brought with them a preference for aggressive driving, expensive housing and generally ruined Seattle's damp, cozy vibe. At least that is the portrait we cradle-to-grave Washingtonians like to paint.
Like it or not, California is influential. What California does matters. That's the benefit of being the nation's largest state.
That is why a ruling by the California Supreme Court drew national attention. The state's high court struck down a ban on lesbian and gay marriage last week. The hefty weight of the state could be the tectonic shift needed to flatten discriminatory marriage laws in other states.
California is the second state to allow marriage for same-sex couples. Massachusetts' Supreme Court was first in 2004.
The bicoastal affirmation has a pleasing symmetry. Two influential states in different regions have done away with the out-of-date practice of defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Not all states will follow. That is fine. This, like many social issues, is better acted on a state-by-state basis. Federal intervention, either way, would be damaging. Better to let Massachusetts and California show the nation that marriage between two people in love, regardless of sexual orientation, will not adversely impact society.
Marriage has not suffered in Massachusetts since marriage equality was affirmed in 2004. In fact, the commonwealth has the lowest divorce rate in the nation.
How does that factoid fit into the man/woman marriage crowd's screeching proclamations that if a woman is allowed to marry a woman, the good old traditional American way of life is going to be ripped apart?
The California high court's enlightened vote makes the Washington state Supreme Court's affirmation of a ban on same-sex marriage two years ago feel more like a throwback ruling to a time of prehistoric social norms.
Washington will follow California. Where the Evergreen State will diverge from California is how marriage for same-sex couples becomes legal. Expect to see the issue work its way through the state Capitol. That is what Lisa Stone, executive director of the Northwest Women's Law Center, told Seattle Times reporter Lornet Turnbull.
"The main thing is that the tide may be turning," said Stone, who represented the couples in Washington's gay-marriage lawsuit.
"We will continue to push for full domestic partnership on the way to full marriage. We just won't get there through our courts here."
Progress was made this past legislative session when lawmakers expanded a benefit granting domestic-partnership registry.
The Legislature is the logical place for marriage discrimination to end. The government gave up any good argument for denying marriage to lesbians and gays when it jumped into the business of marriage. The state should not exclude a class of people from a license it grants simply because they are attracted to the same sex.
There is another force working in favor of marriage equality. Demographics. Voters between the ages of 18 and 30 are much more accepting of gays and lesbians than prior generations.
In a talk with journalists at The Times this week, superpollster John Zogby spoke about how younger voters are not as rigid about issues such as gays, guns and abortion as are older voters. He noted that this group, which he calls the "globals," has an ability to pick apart these issues and not react with knee-jerk certainty.
"We found an interesting ability of parsing," Zogby said in reference to his research of the globals. "We didn't find that with older groups. We didn't find that with us baby boomers."
Most states are not ready for the change that is surely coming through a combination of forces and factors. The California ruling will provide needed momentum to the erratic political current that carries marriage equality.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.