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Topic: same-sex marriage
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September 3, 2013 at 6:34 AM
Call it the affirmation of normalcy. Epic Supreme Court decisions, citizen referendums and initiatives, and legislative action in state capitols and the U.S. Congress can launch dramatic social change. Other events serve as welcome milestones of ordinariness and acceptance.
One sure sign of two individuals crossing the threshold into life as a couple is filing a joint tax return. Last week the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said that legally married same-sex spouses can opt for married filing jointly or married filing separately.
As an article in The New York Times explains, this all spins off a Supreme Court decision that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage. Legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits.
The IRS deals with taxes so it gets complicated by nature. Civil unions are not covered, but location does not matter. Legally married in one state and residing in a state that does not recognized same-sex marriages does not trump the federal tax benefit. Sorting out state tax laws might take an accountant.
As U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., noted, “the IRS sent a clear message: America’s federal tax system will not discriminate based on who you love.”
Public opinion in America is moving swiftly to embrace same-sex couples and families. Getting a nod from the tax collector is a reminder how delightfully ordinary this has all become.
August 13, 2013 at 11:45 AM
This Seattle Times news account of state Sen. Ed Murray’s marriage last Saturday to his long-time partner Michael Shiosaki warmed a lot of hearts, including mine. Murray, a Seattle Democrat, fought well over a decade to convince a majority of his fellow lawmakers to support legalizing same-sex marriage. Patience pays off. The two wed exactly 22 years from the day they met during a hike to Mount Rainier.
The political wedding of the season happened just a few days before the highly anticipated documentary film “The Campaign” is scheduled to screen Thursday at SIFF Uptown in Seattle at 7:30 p.m. KCTS 9 will broadcast the film next Sunday at 11pm. Here’s a preview:
Aw, that’s right. Four years before Washington state voters made history by becoming one of the first electorates in the union to affirm marriage equality, there was the 2008 campaign in California for and against Proposition 8, a measure by same-sex marriage opponents to define marriage in that state’s constitution as a union between one man and one woman. Two lower courts ruled the amendment was unconstitutional before the case reached the Supreme Court of the United States. Last June, the justices ruled they had no authority to decide on the case, thereby allowing California to resume same-sex marriages. (Read the Wikipedia explanation of this rather complex legal battle at this link.)
The stunning outcome of that election raised our collective consciousness and ignited a revolution (and lots of fundraising) in states outside California, including right here Washington. It forced a mainstream discussion about gay marriage not just as a social or political wedge problem but as an issue of human rights and personal freedom.
June 26, 2013 at 1:39 PM
Just seven years ago, the Washington Supreme Court gave great deference to the state Legislature’s right to discriminate against same-sex marriage.
In the 2006 Anderson v. King County ruling upholding the state Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) didn’t violate couples’ rights to equal protection because those couples couldn’t show they required “favored minority class” status. Because of this flawed framing, it gave overly broad leeway for the Legislature to enable discrimination. Moreover, the ruling validated the Legislature’s authority to obsess over opposite-sex procreation. According to the Anderson ruling:
That is, the legislature was entitled to believe that providing that only opposite-sex couples may marry will encourage procreation and child-rearing in a “traditional” nuclear family where children tend to thrive.
Today, the supposedly more conservative U.S. Supreme Court flipped that argument on its head in U.S. v. Windsor. In its majority opinion, the court said:
DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. The Constitution’s guarantee of equality “must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot” justify disparate treatment of that group… DOMA cannot survive under these principles.
Justice Anthony Kennedy rightly peeled back the discriminatory intent of the federal DOMA (and its offspring, like Washington’s DOMA).
DOMA’s avowed purpose and practical effect are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States. DOMA’s history of enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages… was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.
It was particularly refreshing to see Kennedy confront the contention that children are somehow inherently harmed by parentage by loving same-same couples, a bugaboo of same-sex proponents and an argument advanced by our state Supreme Court. (more…)
June 26, 2013 at 10:46 AM
I pulled this photo out of our archives to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage Wednesday: Our editorial board launched the “I Do” campaign to support Referendum 74, the initiative to legalize same-sex marriage initiative, in 2012. Missing in action: Editorial writer Jonathan Martin, who joined our board in 2013. He brought in “wedding cake,” aka doughnuts (pictured here) to celebrate Wednesday.
June 26, 2013 at 7:56 AM
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld federal benefits for same-sex couples, but ducked on same-sex marriage in California. The first is a reason for celebration. The second was a dodge.
I’ve been watching Pride flags go up all over Capitol Hill for the past month. It’s a relief that Washington state forged ahead in legalizing same-sex marriage with Referendum 74 last year, rather than wait for permission from federal legislators or judges.
According to the Associated Press story, the Supreme Court ruled that defenders of the California ban on same-sex marriage, aka Proposition 8, did not have the right to appeal lower-court rulings that deemed the ban unconstitutional. But the Supreme Court justices did not rule on the constitutionality of the ban. Our editorial board will be looking over the opinions of the court, and expect an editorial from us later today.
Our editorial board began its crusade to grant rights to same-sex couples in 2000, and we launched a social-media campaign last fall to approve same-sex marriage in Washington state with Ref. 74. Here are the photos readers shared with us via Instagram, Twitter and email.
And get ready for Pride weekend.
Update 11:52 a.m.
Check out this interactive graphic on the Supreme Court ruling from the Associated Press.
April 29, 2013 at 6:15 AM
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on gay marriage in June, but some Washington lawmakers are unable to get past gay people existing, never mind getting married. State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick introduced a proposed law that would allow businesses to deny service to gay and lesbian customers. This Associated Press story gives more details. One step forward, two steps back.
One of Brown’s constituents is the Richland florist facing state legal action for refusing wedding-related services to a gay couple. This is constituent service at its most extreme and its most repugnant.
Senate Bill 5927 isn’t likely to pick up steam in the Washington Legislature’s special session that starts May 13. But if it did it would seek to supersede protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation codified in state law in 2006.
Still just knowing the bill was introduced last Friday and not immediately booed into oblivion by senators rankles.
Not that there wasn’t swift outrage. (more…)
April 22, 2013 at 6:04 AM
Civil Disagreement pits two members of the Seattle Times editorial board against each other on a question of the day. It is an occasional feature of The Times’ Northwest Opinion blog. Here Bruce Ramsey and Lynne K. Varner take on the controversy over a Richland, Wash., florist who refused to do a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding, citing her religious beliefs. She has been sued by American Civil Liberties Union for illegal discrimination and, separately, by Attorney General Bob Ferguson under the consumer protection law, which relates to discrimination.
Lynne, I am troubled by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s crackdown on florist Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, for refusing to make a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding.
I’m not arguing here against gay marriage. I voted for it. I’m not even sure that Stutzman has a legal right to refuse the business. Ferguson says that under Washington’s anti-discrimination statute, she doesn’t, and probably he’s right. She might, however, have a superior right under the state constitution, depending on how you interpret it.
The constitution has nothing in it about freedom from private discrimination. But Article 1, Section 11 does say, “Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship shall be guaranteed to every individual…”
This doesn’t refer to commerce, but in 1889, when it was written, nobody questioned a person’s right not to deal with someone in a matter of commerce. America made an exception to that principle in the 1960s to end racial segregation in the South, where African-Americans could often not eat at lunch counters or rent rooms in motels. Those practices put blacks at a social and economic disadvantage that visibly harmed the race. This pervasive disadvantage was the reason for setting aside the long-standing principle that any business owner could say “no” to a transaction.
We’ve extended the nondiscrimination principle for 50 years and now arrive at its nether regions. With gay marriage there have been a handful of publicized cases of discrimination — by a wedding photographer in New Mexico, the baker of wedding cakes in Oregon, and now this wedding florist in the Tri Cities. Most of these cased have been about wedding ceremonies. Should a gay couple’s extra hassle in finding wedding professionals matter to the state?
The political question is not only about whether you think, or I think, a shop in Richland should make a flower arrangement for a gay couple’s wedding. If I were a florist, I would do it. It’s good business to do it. But I am uneasy about having the government require someone else to do it if they cite a reason of religious conscience. (Or is progressives’ real reason that they simply can’t imagine a good person believing what Christian conservatives believe?)
In my youth, when we had military conscription, you could get out of it by citing religious belief, if you were a member of a church with those beliefs. That was being a conscientious objector. Can this florist be a conscientious objector?
Recall last year’s campaign for Referendum 74. The ballot measure said no church or pastor could be required to officiate at a same-sex wedding — because that might be against a pastor’s beliefs. The law didn’t say anything about the baker who makes the wedding cake, the photographer who takes the pictures or the florist who arranges the flowers. Is their religious belief less important? (Maybe it is, because religion doesn’t define their profession. But that narrows the scope of religious freedom, doesn’t it? And what if religion did define a person’s non-church profession: a “florist for Christian weddings” for example, or a family counselor for members of a certain synagogue?)
How about an “African hair stylist” that doesn’t want to serve white people? Should such a beauty operator be set upon by the Attorney General’s office? Or a Muslim architect who specializes in mosques and refuses to design churches and synagogues? What if a baseball promoter wanted to revive the Negro leagues? A retro idea, but should it be forbidden?
A progressive colleague says, “Think about lunch counters.” Lunch counters serve food, which is a necessity for life. Discrimination at lunch counters has been banned for 50 years. Does that mean every time this question comes up, even about flower arrangements at weddings, all we have to do is think about lunch counters?
And if we say, “All discrimination is wrong,” then what about people’s non-commercial lives? People discriminate in who they allow in their circle of friends, who they marry, who they invite to their child’s birthday parties. If this is to be a free country, at some level you should be able to say, “No. I won’t.” Does this change as soon as money changes hands — or at some other point? Why does it change?
My progressive friends think this is an easy question. I don’t. The “right not to be discriminated against” clashes with “the right to choose,” and, more narrowly, “the right to choose for reasons of religious conscience.” The progressives call themselves “pro-choice.” They are not.
Bruce, what if Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, had shown the couple wedding arrangements so hideous and outdated that they ran screaming from the store?
Seriously though, the headline above our blog poses a question very easily answered: Yes. Arlene’s Flowers is a business open to the general public and must serve the public without treating customers differently based on race, religion or sexual orientation. That’s Washington law and every business in the state must obey it, Stutzman’s included.
The owner of Arlene’s Flowers had served the couple in the past. She likely would have done their wedding if they had been a heterosexual couple. She is free to her religious views, but she is not free to discriminate based on race, religion and sexual orientation.
Yes, anti-discrimination laws were created to challenge discriminatory practices against people of color, most visibly African Americans in the segregated South. These laws protect certain classes from social, economic and, I’d add, psychological, disadvantage because of the color of their skin. This legal imperative was not done willy-nilly. A long history of being discriminated against made the case for African Americans. The case of discrimination, both past and present, can be made for gays. Hence their inclusion in anti-discrimination laws.
But religious beliefs have never been allowed to be used to justify discrimination. Here’s a good example. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at one time did not allow blacks to enter the priesthood because of Mormon doctrines on race. The church lifted the ban on blacks in the priesthood in 1978 but even before then a Mormon store owner would not have been able to extend Sunday’s stance on race into a refusal on Monday to serve African American customers.
Anti-discrimination laws coexist with religion. But when necessary, they trump it.
Washington added sexual orientiation to anti-discrimination protections in 2006. Last year’s passage of Referendum 74 gave gay couples the right to marry. Bruce, you and I voted for Referendum 74, but it does not matter whether we did or not. What matters is the law’s protection of a gay couple seeking to do things to which they have a legal right: marry and access to public accommodations, including a florist.
I reread Article 1, Section 11 to better understand your argument that Washington’s constituiton protects religion. That argument does not wash. The constitution is underscoring the freedom to hold religious beliefs and worship in a manner of our choosing. It then goes on to separate state government and religion. But the giant leap to commercial businesses and religion is not made.
Nor is the constitution’s protection of the freedom of association a good argument for discriminating against gay couples. No one has complete freedom. Certainly in our private lives, for example, our friendships, social activities and where we choose to live, is based upon common interests that may look to an outsider as exclusion. This is incidental. Few people are saying, ”I don’t want Latinos at my birthday party or African Americans in the poetry class I’m teaching.” But even if your private views were of a discriminatory nature, you would not be able to bring those views into your business if it is open to the public.
There is no free pass around anti-discrimination laws. Thank God for that. If businesses were allowed to choose who they wanted to serve, some of us would find ourselves back in a hellish world circa 1950 when people with brown skin could not eat in many restaurants, stay in most motels or even do something as innocuous as try on hats in a department store. Americans decided they did not want to live in that kind of society and successfully pressed for change. Gays are a protected class in Washington state. Businesses can no more refuse to serve gays, than they can refuse to serve people of color.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington will test at least some of my arguments as it presses forward with a suit against Arlene’s Flowers on behalf of the couple.
April 10, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Does a Richland florist have the right to provide service to a gay man for years, then decide she won’t do business with him when he tells her he’s using the flowers in his wedding ceremony to another man?
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson doesn’t think so. Discrimination is discrimination, and Washington treats the institution of marriage the same for all after the passage of Referendum 74 last November.
March 28, 2013 at 7:25 AM
Check out this interactive from the Associated Press that measures public sentiment. The most interesting part of this interactive graph is on page 2, which highlights comments from each justice during the two-day hearing.
Our editorial board supports legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Leading up to the 2012 general election, we held a social-media campaign called “I Do” to support approving Referendum 74. (Here are the 300 photos readers shared with us.)
The conversation continued on our editorial board this week as the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against California Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act.
- Same-sex marriage is a state’s right: Check out editorial columnist Bruce Ramsey’s column arguing why same-sex marriage is a state’s right. (He voted to approve Referendum 74, by the way.)
- Legalize it federally now. I argued that the high court should legalize marriage for same-sex couples across the land in an Opinion Northwest blog post.
- Show your support on social media. Editorial writer Thanh Tan worked with our graphics department to put together a Facebook profile picture showing our support as part of the Human Rights Coalition campaign.
March 27, 2013 at 1:58 PM
Judging from the justices’ comments in Tuesday’s Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, the court may end up deciding that the decisions lies with the states. My colleague Bruce Ramsey made the same argument in his Wednesday column: Legalizing same-sex marriage should remain a state’s right.
People will always try to arrest major change with the argument, “It’s too soon.” Patience is a luxury for the privileged.
To lesbian and gay couples, another day of being told they can’t marry is another day of being told they don’t count. It’s like telling someone getting slapped in the face to just be patient and turn the other cheek, then the other, then the other, then the other. (more…)