The Legacy Washington team is currently working on its newest project - an exhibit, printed publication, and online stories celebrating the anniversary of marriage equality in Washington state. The success of the marriage equality movement stunned even its advocates. The transformation from “outlaws to in-laws” was one of swiftest turnarounds in U.S. civil rights history. As recently as 2006, our state law did not prohibit job discrimination against gays and lesbians, and our state Supreme Court banned same-sex marriage.
Bruised but not beaten, LBGTQ+ advocates tried a brick-by-brick approach. They got domestic partnerships passed in three phases, capped by an “everything but marriage” law. Marriage equality landed on Washington’s November ballot in 2012. Devastating votes against same-sex marriage in other states—31 losses without a win—informed a new strategy. It would shift debate from the head to the heart.
Instead of arguing about discrimination and privacy, LGBTQ+ advocates stressed that gay couples wanted the same white-picket fence, homey routines and devoted commitment as heterosexuals. Using family values rhetoric, which had worked so well for their opponents, advocates concentrated their message in a single word.
Their “love, equally” won in Washington, as well as in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota in 2012. It marked the first time marriage equality was approved by voters, rather than judges or politicians. Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court followed suit, citing a book by Washington historian Stephanie Coontz. It was subtitled, How Love Conquered Marriage.
Legacy Washington celebrates this history with profiles and an exhibit about people who were committed to LGBTQ+ civil rights, and those still fighting for progress.
Want more LGBTQ+ profiles? Here are a few from previous Legacy Washington projects:
Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, Director of the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs and former Army Nurse
Ana Mari Cauce, University of Washington President
Trish Millines Dziko, Founder of the Technology Access Foundation (see our interview here)
Want to learn more about marriage over the years?
Historian Stephanie Coontz's work was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage (see our interview here)