As of this afternoon, the arc of history is bending towards justice in the state of Washington.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a measure legalizing gay marriage in a ceremony in Olympia on Monday. It made Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.
A tearful Gregoire announced: “We’re here to make history here in the great state of Washington. This is a very proud day … A day that we did what was right, what was just, what was fair.”
“Here in our state we have taken a long and difficult journey, and this is the last step.”
The law will take effect on June 7, though it’s worth noting that the fight from opponents will continue. Conservatives intend to collect ballot signatures in the hopes of putting the issue before voters in November, creating the possibility of giving citizens the right to marry, only to take it away five months later.
There’s also the possibility that collecting enough signatures would put the law on hold pending a November election.
But that’s all speculative at this point. What’s very real is the breakthrough success marriage-equality supporters have had in the state of Washington – the seventh state to tell its citizens that if two consenting adults fall in love and want to get married, they should be able to do so.
It’s worth emphasizing that different states have arrived at the right point through different circumstances. While some states, including Iowa and Massachusetts, approved same-sex marriages by way of a court order, Washington joins states that backed marriage equality because they wanted to. Policymakers in Washington legalized same-sex marriage because they thought it was the right thing to do, not because a judge told them they had to.
That, I’d argue, makes success that much more meaningful.
What’s more, it’s another step towards a larger goal. The number of states with marriage equality keeps growing. The number of Americans who support marriage equality keeps growing. The number of policymakers willing to endorse marriage equality keeps growing.
The head of Focus on the Family was asked last year about same-sex marriage, and he practically conceded defeat, saying, “We’ve probably lost that.”
I’m very much inclined to agree. Most of the country now believes two consenting adults should be legally permitted to get married if they want to. It’s exceptionally unlikely that trend will ever reverse – civil-rights trajectories rarely, if ever, move that way.
It won’t be easy, and election outcomes may delay justice, but those on the side of progress are winning.