Quick question: When was the last time you heard someone argue passionately for or against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
It’s been more than 13 months since the policy was repealed on Sept. 20, 2011. One month later, a United States Air Force Academy news release quoted Col. Gary Packard, who led the Department of Defense’s DADT repeal implementation team: “The best quote I’ve heard so far is, ‘Well, some people’s Facebook status changed, but that was about it.'” The next month, Huffington Post quoted Marine Gen. James F. Amos: “I’m very pleased with how (the repeal of DADT) has gone.” He called it a “nonevent.”Likewise, we suspect it won’t be long before any mention of last Tuesday’s Referendum 74 will draw responses such as, “Huh? What was that?” And yet on Tuesday night, crowds in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area were chanting, “74! 74! 74!”
We believe Washington’s historic legalization of same-sex marriage will soon be routinely accepted. Opponents really don’t have any other choice. The Legislature acted earlier this year, and about 52 percent of voters statewide approved Referendum 74.
The Columbian’s support of same-sex marriage has always been accompanied by our belief that passionate people made respectable and commendable cases on both sides of the issue. So we were glad to read this classy quote from Zach Silk of Washington United for Marriage after R-74 passed: “We have always understood that there are good people on the other side of this issue. Yet, we remain confident that once people see how much marriage matters to families, they will realize that the love and commitment that marriage embodies only strengthens families, neighborhoods and communities.”
Those words sound a lot like the no-big-deal approach reflected in the two aforementioned quotes. Still, there is no denying the historic significance of R-74. After 32 “No” responses by voters in other states, Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first three states where voters legalized same-sex marriage. (And in Minnesota, voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.)
The success of R-74 is based in the Puget Sound. The measure passed in only eight of 39 counties; all eight touch Puget Sound. In Clark County, R-74 was opposed by about 52.8 percent of voters (as of Friday). But in King County, home to about one-third of the state’s voters, about two-thirds of voters supported R-74. Likely, this will ignite new debates about Seattle and other Puget Sound cities’ supposedly running roughshod over the rest of the state. But it’s all about math, and there’s no rational reason to believe one vote anywhere in the state should be stronger than any other vote elsewhere.
The path to legal same-sex marriage has been long. A 1998 law banning same-sex marriage was upheld by a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling, but that was the first year that a gay civil rights measure passed in the Legislature. The next year, a domestic partnership law was passed, granting some legal rights. That law was strengthened in 2009 with passage of the “everything but marriage” law. Later that year, opponents took that law to voters who approved it.
Then came decisive 2012, when legislators legalized same-sex marriage, followed by voters’ ratification last week.
Our advice to any lingering alarmists: Notice how quickly the uproar over the repeal of DADT faded. We suspect the same will happen with the approval of R-74.