As many of you may know that last Tuesday while voters in Maine rejected gay marriage, voters in Washington State approved domestic partnerships. That “split decision” occasioned my latest column for Pajamas Media. Here’s a taste:
Largely lost amidst the hullabaloo of Republican gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia and a Conservative defeat in New York’s 23rd congressional district last week was a successful citizens’ veto in Maine of a state statute recognizing gay marriage. At the same time, across the nation, citizens in Washington State approved a statute making “the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of same-sex and senior domestic partners” the equivalent to those of married spouses without calling the relationships marriage. The margins were nearly identical. In the Pine Tree State, 52.8% of voters approved Question 1, rejecting state recognition of same-sex marriage. In the Evergreen State, 52.56% voted to approve domestic partnerships.
This split decision, if you will, could have tremendous reverberations in the current debate on gay marriage, particularly as it relates to the strategies gay activists employ to secure state recognition of and legal benefits to same-sex couples. When Maine voters’ approval of Question 1, the Pine Tree State become the 31st state to either reject same-sex marriage or accept the traditional definition of marriage by popular initiative. No state has recognized same-sex marriage at the ballot box.
By contrast, Washington State become the first state to approve state recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships at the ballot box.* It’s only been ten years since California became the first state to recognize same-sex relationships when the state legislature enacted the Domestic Partnership Act of 1999. While some state courts (e.g., Vermont that year and New Jersey in 2003) mandated the state legislature enact legislation recognizing civil unions, until last Tuesday, voters, via a statewide initiative process, had never previously approved such legislation.