The Freedom to Marry in Washington

Winning Marriage: December 6, 2012

Same-sex couples began marrying in Washington on December 6, 2012 after voters approved Referendum 74 on Election Day  – November 6, 2012. For the first time in history, voters approved Referendum 74, upholding the freedom to marry, which was passed by the Washington Legislature and signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire on February 13, 2012. 

History and the Path to Victory:

  • May 20, 1975: Division One of the Court of Appeals of Washington rules against two men, John Singer and Paul Barwick, who file a legal case after being denied a marriage license in Washington in 1971. The case is appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, which refuses to review the decision.
  • 1998: The Washington Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples. The statute is immediately vetoed by Governor Gary Locke. The legislature overrides his veto the same day.  
  • March 8, 2004: Lambda Legal files a legal case, Anderson v. King County, seeking the freedom to marry in Washington on behalf of several same-sex couples. A separate case is filed in the same year by the American Civil Liberties Union, building momentum for marriage in the courts.
  • July 26, 2006: Despite two lower court rulings in favor of the freedom to marry, the Washington Supreme Court reverses these rulings and upholds marriage discrimination in Washington.
  • July 23, 2007: Washington begins offering domestic partnerships to same-sex couples and their families. In 2008 the law is expanded to include a broader set of protections and responsibilities.
  • 2007-2012: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Washington take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • May 24, 2012: Polling in Washington tracks majority support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • February 13, 2012: The Washington Legislature passes, and Governor Christine Gregoire signs a freedom to marry bill with strong bipartisan support. Soon after the bill is passed, anti-marriage forces acquire the necessary signatures to place the measure on the ballot. Enactment of the law is postponed pending the outcome of the November 2012 vote.
  • November, 6 2012: A coalition of support for the freedom to marry led by Washington United for Marriage helps pass Referendum 74 at the ballot. Marriage supporters also triumph at the ballot in Maryland, Maine, and Minnesota on the same night.
  • December 6, 2012: The freedom to marry takes effect in Washington, and same-sex couples marry across the state.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Washington United for Marriage was a coalition a coalition of organizations, congregations, unions, and businesses working together to secure civil marriage for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples. Freedom to Marry was proud to be a founding member of Washington United for Marriage.
  • Equal Rights Washington is Washington's statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization.
  • The ACLU of Washington is the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, committed to standing up for equality for all people in Washington. The ACLU was counsel in a 2004 court case challenging Washington's marriage ban.
  • Lambda Legal is the United States' first legal organization dedicated to achieving full equality for gay and lesbian people. Lambda Legal was counsel in a 2004 court case challenging Washington's marriage ban.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.​