Washington state voters have ushered in a new moment in LGBT history by approving the state's new "everything but marriage" domestic partnership law.
With 69% of the expected vote counted Thursday, Referendum 71 lead 52% to 48%, roughly the numbers of the votes in Maine, but there, residents voted against marriage equality. This is great news for LGBT rights after that crushing blow.
"This moment in history is simply unprecedented," says Joe Mirabella on Seattle PI. Joe worked tirelessly with many bloggers, including Lurleen at Pam's House Blend, as part of the netroots team for the Approve Referendum 71 campaign.
"Referendum 71 was only the 6th referendum in Washington history to ever be approved by Washington voters. It is far easier to reject a referendum than approve one. In only 6 weeks we changed the conversation from the decline to sign campaign, to one of approve," Joe continued. "We faced an off year election, when older more conservative voters have a far better voting record. An LGBT referendum has never been approved by voters anywhere in the United States, that is until November 3 when fair minded voters from throughout the state said, "yes we want equality for all Washington families."
National gay-rights groups concur, saying the passage of Referendum 71 marks the first time a state's voters have approved a gay equality measure at the ballot box.
"This victory promotes fairness, supports families, and is good for Washington state and the country. This victory sends the message that no family should be left vulnerable and without basic protections because of someone else's prejudices," said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
"This is a wonderful victory for all those who value fairness and equality," said Josh Friedes, Approve Referendum 71 campaign manager. "Washingtonians have defended fairness and taken a strong stand for all families. We would not be celebrating this victory if it were not for Washingtonians' commitment to civil rights, our amazing campaign staff, our volunteers, our community and allies, and the support of organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The Task Force spent time with us on the ground to train our campaign field team and contributed financially to help us ensure this victory."
Lurleen remarked on the voter map posted to the left, pointing out how much has changed in Washington in such a short amount of time.
"The last time Washington voters had the opportunity to ratify a pro-equality law at the polls was in 1997. Initiative to the People 677 proposed an employment non-discrimination law," Lurleen said. "The ballot title read Shall discrimination based on sexual orientation be prohibited in employment, employment agency, and union membership practices, without requiring employee partner benefits or preferential treatment?
"The measure was rejected 59.7% to 40.3%," she continues. "Contrary to the current image of the Puget Sound area of Washington as progressive, not one single county - not even Seattle's home of King County - voted to approve I-677. Contrast that with the current election where the electorate as a whole approved R-71 and majorities in 10 of Washington's 39 counties have approved R-71. But the truly stunning statistic is that the rate of ballot measure approval increased between 1997 and 2009 in all but one county."
This should make anti-LGBT forces quake in their boots. After their victory in Maine, they have continually declared that the tide is in fact not turning against them but in fact moving with them. Sounds like they spoke a little too soon.
THANK YOU, WASHINGTON! YOUR SUPPORT WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY!