by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
There's no denying it - this was a year that the LGBT community will long remember. Here is a look back at the top people and events in Washington state that made headlines in 2012:
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BECOMES REALITY
In December, legal same-sex ceremonies took place across the state, including inside Seattle City Hall, for the first time ever. The weddings were held after Washingtonians passed same-sex marriage by popular vote. Referendum 74 had asked voters to either approve or reject the state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier in the year. That law was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in February but was put on hold pending the outcome of the election. Nearly 54% of voters approved R-74. Washington joined Maine and Maryland as the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. Six other states - New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont - and the District of Columbia already allowed same-sex nuptials. The other states' laws were enacted either by lawmakers or court rulings.
INSLEE BEATS MCKENNA
In a very close race, after a vote count that went on for days, Democrat Jay Inslee prevailed over Republican Rob McKenna, continuing a long winning streak in governor's races for Inslee's party. Inslee, McKenna and outside political groups raised and spent some $40 million in the contest. McKenna, Washington's attorney general and a former King County councilman, was favored by many to win because he was the GOP's best candidate in many years. The last time a Republican won a Washington governor's race was in 1980, when John Spellman was elected in that year's GOP landslide. Inslee, a former longtime congressman and supporter of the LGBT community, will be sworn into office in mid-January.
ED MURRAY ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO RUN FOR MAYOR
State Sen. Ed Murray announced his intention to run for mayor of Seattle on December 5, less than one month after he shared in the victory for same-sex marriage. Murray, an out Gay legislator, has spent two decades in the state House and Senate as a champion of LGBT equality. Recently, Murray jumped ahead in fundraising. As a sitting senator, Murray may not raise money while the state legislature is in session, but he managed to bring in a whopping $122,776 in the nine days before the prescribed deadline to suspend his fundraising efforts. Although Murray is running in what is perceived to be a tight race, his chances of winning are very good. Seattle Gay News has endorsed Ed Murray for mayor of Seattle.
MARIJUANA POSSESSION LEGALIZED (SORT OF)
In a move that was widely viewed as impossible, Washingtonians legalized the recreational use of marijuana on November 6. The successful initiative had the support of many elected leaders, as well as current and former law enforcement officials, who said prohibition no longer makes sense. Colorado passed a similar measure, while Oregon voters rejected one. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and there's no firm indication yet what action the Justice Department might take against states or businesses that participate in the nascent pot market. Washington's new law allows possession of up to an ounce for people over 21. But selling marijuana remains illegal for now. The initiative gave the state a year to come up with a system of licensing for growers, processors, and retail stores.
LOCALLY BASED COMPANIES SUPPORT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Without a shadow of a doubt, the successful passage of marriage equality in Washington State was due in large part to the support from more than 100 businesses, large and small, that endorsed same-sex marriage in the Evergreen State. Big players, however, like Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks, were instrumental not only for their branding recognition, but for the money and resources they put behind the campaign. Many companies pledged support before Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the bill in February.
PATTY MURRAY HAS BANNER YEAR
Washington's U.S. Sen. Patty Murray made 2012 count. In February Murray strongly defended women's access to contraception under President Obama's Affordable Care Act. As chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, she saw Democrats expand their Senate majority, President Obama re-elected, and a Lesbian, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) elected to the U.S. Senate. As chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs, Murray continued her mission of improving the lives of veterans and, in particular in 2012, the lives of LGBT veterans and their families. She supports the repeal of DOMA, and was a vocal supporter of both Governor-elect Inslee and the Approve Referendum 74 campaign for marriage equality.
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