It’s not official yet, but with the looks of things there could be lots of wedding bells sounding on Dec. 9 — the day same-sex marriage certificates can formally be signed in Washington State.
As of midnight, with half of the expected ballots turned in, Referendum 74 was passing with 52 percent of the vote, according to the Washington Secretary of State.
In Spokane, same-sex marriage supporters gathered at nYne Bar and Bistro to watch election results. As news came in that Ref. 74 was in the lead, Councilman Jon Snyder addressed the crowd and thanked them for their advocacy.
“All the results aren’t in, but it’s looking very, very good,” he said. “We’re lifting the veil of discrimination in Spokane and Spokane County. With 52 percent it’s too early to call, but it’s a profound effort no matter what happens.”
According to the Spokane County Elections Office, 43.2 percent of local voters voted to approve Ref. 74 and 56.8 percent voted against it.
“Spokane County has become much more progressive,” said Shar Lichty, of the Peace and Justice Action League.
In 2009, when Washington voted on domestic partnership laws, 39 percent of Spokane County voted to approve the measure.
“So far we’re beating 2009 and that’s an astounding thing,” Snyder said.
That’s in part, he said, because of the efforts of Washington United for Marriage, which Snyder said he believes may have drawn in the most volunteers for a ballot measure in the state’s history.
The day before the election Washington United for Marriage volunteers made 100,00 phone calls and in the week prior to the election knocked on 100,000 doors. The campaign had 5,000 active volunteers, 80 percent who were Washington state residents. The campaign raised more than $10 million, with the average donation hovering around $25.
Dean Lynch, former City Councilman, said same-sex couples need to remember that many of Washington United for Marriage volunteers were supporters of the gay community, who deserve to be recognized.
“We need to remember our allies who did the legwork,” he said, “ who made the extra phone calls. We need to remember our friends who helped us.”
Andy Billig, who won the third district state senate seat, said voters should celebrate their victories, but added that if Ref. 74 does pass in Washington, same-sex marriage is still illegal in most U.S. states.
“There’s more work to do,” he said.
According to the Associated Press, Gay marriage won approval from voters in Maine and Maryland on election night, and in Minnesota voters rejected a ban on same-sex marriage.
The Spokane County Elections Office will continue to count ballots through Wednesday and will release another update at 6 p.m.
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.