SEATTLE — Efforts by marriage equality advocates across the country, including the JACL, paid off on Election Day when ballot initiatives in Washington, Maine, and Maryland legalized same-sex marriage and Minnesota voted down an amendment to define marriage as being a union solely between a man and a woman.
The measure on the ballot in Washington was Referendum 74. A bill legalizing same-sex marriage was passed by state lawmakers in Olympia and signed into law by outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire in February. The law was slated to take effect earlier in the year, but implementation was delayed by gay marriage opponents, who submitted more than double the required number of signatures to trigger a statewide vote in November.
Contrary to fears expressed by opponents, under the new law no church would be forced to conduct a religious ceremony outside of its faith tradition.
The Nov. 6 election marks the first time that states have approved same-sex marriage at the ballot box; a number of states have passed measures banning such marriages, including California’s Proposition 8.
The Seattle Chapter of JACL has supported the campaign in Washington since November 2011, when board members voted unanimously to endorse Washington United for Marriage, a coalition composed of individuals, businesses, unions, churches, and civil rights organizations.
The Seattle JACL aided in the effort by providing publicity through its social media networks and newsletter, even gathering prominent members of the Asian American and faith communities to appear and be quoted in media ads, publications, and news conferences.
The chapter was invited to speak at a Why Marriage Matters Washington event to summarize the JACL’s efforts to educate the public on same-sex marriage. In order to lend further support, Seattle JACL enlisted other members of Pacific Northwest District Council to sign endorsement forms for the campaign, including the Spokane, Puyallup Valley, and Portland, Ore. chapters; submitted op-eds to newspapers; and placed ads in prominent Seattle Asian American newspapers.
Bill Tashima, president of Seattle JACL, stated, “We believe that like the Issei when the Alien Land Laws were repealed and like the Nisei when World War II redress and an apology from the government was issued, the freedom to marry in Washington will permit our gay and lesbian friends, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and neighbors to be complete and whole as citizens of our state.”
JACL also strongly encouraged its members to support the measures in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota.