Rachel Smith-Mosel is a Lesbian. She married her partner in California, where she was born, and she married her partner in Canada, where her partner was born. But now, she wants to marry her partner in Washington state, where they live. Is that so wrong?
Washington state does have domestic partnership laws, but Smith-Mosel believes they are insufficient, and fail to provide the couple the proper benefits and protections that come with marriage. And she wants Washington state to follow the lead of states like New York and recognize gay couples equally in marriage.
She may have a good shot at it, too.
The push for marriage equality is growing in Washington, which has seen in increase in same-sex households by more than 50% since 2000. And this increase isn't just in urban centers, but felt all over the state.
In fact, more than 24,000 households in Washington are led by same-sex partners, and, in Jefferson County on the Olympic Peninsula and in San Juan County, more than one out of every 50 couples is same-sex. In Seattle, 3% of all couples are gay male couples, while more than 2% are lesbian partnerships.
it isn't just that gay couples are moving to Washington, it's that gay couples are coming out in Washington, and working toward equality.
And Rachel Smith-Mosel hopes the change will come, as more and more gay men and women come out and stand up for equality. She hopes that, one day, she can stop carrying around the folder that details family's relationships, and can stop worrying that, during a medical crisis, that she and her family will face questions and lack the same protections as officially recognized spouses: "Our kids need to feel that our family isn't just second-class. We're a married couple, and we want to be treated as such. We deserve to be treated as such."
Activists, lawmakers, and citizens are working on the best time, and the best way, to push the issue. Democratic state Senator Ed Murray, who has consistently filed bills to approve gay marriages since 1997, believes the state Senate does not have the votes right now to get it approved in 2012, but he has hopes that there will be a change, perhaps in the coming session of the Legislature.
There are now some 4,600 homes in Nevada headed by lesbian, and another 4,700 homes headed by two male partners. And roughly one-quarter of those couples are raising children.
Now, in all fairness, this increase in same-sex households is still minuscule when you factor in the more than one-million-plus households in the state, but it does show an increase.
And an increase leads to openness and understanding and awareness that gay couples, and gay families,, are no different than their heterosexual counterparts. And, this increase of 87% in gay households comes just ten years after 67% of voters in Nevada defined marriage as "between a male and female person."
And these numbers of gay households are really only gay couples in partnership. Since the Census made no provision for single gay people to be counted, the actual numbers of gay men and women could be higher still.
This increase in the numbers of openly gay households is also seen in the recent shift in LGBT-friendly legislation. Nevada has passed many local and state laws recognizing the rights of domestic partners, and the state Legislature passed a law recognizing domestic partners, even after then Republican Governor Jim Gibbons vetoed it.
And state leaders went further this year, passing a series of laws that extended discrimination protections to transgender people and prohibited housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Still, overturning that gay marriage ban passed by Nevada voters in 2002 could take years because of the state's complicated constitutional amendment process. And many activists say the only way same-sex marriage could be legalized in Nevada is for the federal government to recognize gay marriage.
But it's progress in both states. And it's proof that coming out is the road to equality. If gay men and women cannot be themselves openly and honestly in every aspect of their lives, how can we expect people to see us, and understand us, and accept as equals. In the closet there is shame, and if some of us are ashamed of who we are, how can we expect anyone else to feel differently.
We must all come out.
That's the first step.