In Our View: The Growth of Equality

Despite dire warnings, legalized same-sex marriage is gaining popularity

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Americans' attitudes about same-sex marriage are changing rapidly, and once again we see Washington leading the way for other states to do the right thing. Two recent stories prove both of these points.The state Department of Health reported last week that 2,400 same-sex marriages occurred in Washington from the day they were legalized (Dec. 6) through the end of March, the last month when complete statistics are available. We hasten to point out that there has been no noticeable impact on the high quality of life in our state because of these 2,400 marriages. And the absence of any meaningful effect is despite numerous warnings to the contrary prior to the passage of Referendum 74 last year by almost 54 percent of voters (the measure was opposed in Clark County by 52 percent of voters).

County Auditor Greg Kimsey said Friday afternoon that the county does not keep track of same-sex marriages. But the state Department of Health reported that only three counties -- Ferry (county seat Republic), Garfield (Pomeroy), and Wahkiakum (Cathlamet) -- had recorded no same-sex marriages, according to updated reports through June.

Other noteworthy statistics from the Department of Health news release:

More than 20 percent of all marriages in the state have involved same-sex couples.

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the same-sex marriages were female couples.

About 14 percent of the same-sex marriages included out-of-state couples who traveled here for the ceremony.

The second story on this decreasingly controversial issue was a national one. According to a McClatchy-Tribune article, almost three-quarters of Americans now believe the national legalization of same-sex marriage has become inevitable. The story cited a new poll from the Pew Research Center. Washington, of course, was a pioneer, the first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses as mandated by voters. Marriage equality exists in a dozen states. The most recent is Minnesota, where marriage licenses were first issued to gay and lesbian couples on Thursday.

The McClatchy-Tribune story defined the trend further: "In a 1985 Los Angeles Times poll, almost two-thirds of Americans said they would be 'very upset' if a child of theirs said that he or she was gay. By 2004, a Times poll found the number … had dropped to one-third. Now, in the Pew survey, just one in five take that view … A majority, 55 percent, say they would not be upset at all, up from just 9 percent in 1985."

Other findings from the Pew poll:

Even among poll participants who oppose the idea, 59 percent believe legalizing same-sex marriage is inevitable. That belief soars to 85 percent among people who support the idea.

For the first time in Pew survey history, a majority of Americans polled (51 percent) say they support same-sex marriage; 42 percent oppose it.

People "who live in urban areas, younger Americans and those who don't frequently go to religious services are more likely to say they know many gay people than those in rural areas, senior citizens and frequent churchgoers."

More than 2,400 same-sex marriages later, we can almost hear echoes of dire warnings prior to the passage of R-74. Instead, the advent of marriage equality in our state is a testament to expanded freedoms, plus the growing recognition of a person's right to marry whomever she or he chooses.