Tuesday was a historic night for equality.
Voters in Maine and Maryland approved same-sex marriage at the ballot box, ending a long losing streak for supporters of marriage equality. In Minnesota, a proposed amendment that would ban same-sex marriage was trailing at the end of election night—just barely, and with thousands of ballots yet to be counted from liberal Minneapolis.
And in Washington State, Referendum 74—which, if approved by voters, would legalize same-sex marriage—was passing with nearly 52 percent of the vote on election night.
Still, leading advocates of marriage equality were being cautious. “Returns aren’t finished,” said state senator Ed Murray (D-43). “But we have a lot to celebrate tonight.” Murray deliberately stopped short of declaring victory on election night, but he told a cheering crowd at the Westin Hotel: “You have sent a message of hope across this state.”
Murray’s legislative colleague, state representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), was similarly noncommittal. “The next generation of kids is going to grow up knowing they have the full support of their government,” he said, without saying that this full support had now arrived in Washington State.
The holdup was King County, which still had tens of thousands of ballots left to count. Still, with 65 percent of King County voters approving R-74 in the initial count, and that trend likely to continue through the full count, seasoned political watchers were predicting victory. “Fifty-two percent, with King County what it is—it’s still time to call Washington State for marriage equality,” said Governor Chris Gregoire.
Similarly, Matt Barreto, who runs the Washington Poll, projected that R-74 would be approved and added that he expected Jay Inslee to be the next governor. “King County delivered both,” Barreto said.
Gregoire, who had a late-career conversion on marriage equality, called her daughters up to the podium at the Westin and thanked them for changing her mind. “They told me, ‘This is the civil rights issue of this generation,’” Gregoire said. “They’re right.”