In Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill in May granting same sex domestic partners all the rights of married couples. That same month conservative interests announced they would attempt to overturn the new law and enough signatures were collected enough to place R-71 on the November ballot.
Gay rights supporters were not ready to declare victory Tuesday night.
"We are hopeful, but we are not stupid. We know better than to think we've got this in the can," said said Jody Lane of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "They may be recounting 'til January, for God's sake."
Before the first batch of results came in at 8:15 p.m., supporters laughed as a clip of Stephen Colbert jokingly endorsing Washington's domestic partnership law played on a projector at the Pravda Studios party.
With a bigger crowd by 9:05 p.m., they were still having fun -- but no one was celebrating. "We are really very guardedly optimistic, remembering that a very very large percentage of King County ballots have not been counted," campaign manager Josh Friedes told the crowd.
So far, so good. Washington is on the right path... And here's why it's so important and why we should care about it.
First, the opposition made this about "gay marriage" even though people were actually voting on DPs. They called themselves "Protect Marriage Washington" and warned about how approving R-71 would "put Washington on the path to let teh gayz merry!" Ironically, this proxy war over marriage equality will encourage pro-equality activists to one day go for full civil marriage equality in Washington.
Secondly if the anti-equality forces couldn't muster an off-year election in Washington, what makes them think they can pull a win in Nevada next year with Harry Reid, Rory Reid, and a number of other high-profile races on the ballot? Nevada Democrats have now proven to have a superior turn-out machine than the Republicans, so I doubt voters in a regular general election will be in the appetite to hate on LGBT families just for the sake of hating on them.
And finally, this is truly historic. Again, R-71 in Washington is the first time EVER that voters in any state approved legal relationship recognition. And again, if they can't win in an off-year election like this it gives me hope that 2010 and 2012 won't be so scary for us after all.
And really, I need hope now. The Maine results still scare me. I guess they were just too religious right there... And Obama (again) was hurting us there. Whatever went wrong, hopefully one day it will be made right in Maine.
But at least today, Washington is making baby steps toward equality... And we can breathe a little more easily about Nevada coming along as well.