More than 2,500 same-sex couples tied the knot in 35 of Washington’s 39 counties, during the period when gay marriage became legal on December 6, 2012, and March 31, 2013, according to figures supplied by the state Department of Health.
With the advent of marriage equality — now the law in Washington, 11 other states and the District of Columbia — 20 percent of Evergreen State weddings involved same sex couples, and an even higher one-third in populous King County. Sixty-three percent of same-sex marriages were between women.
About 14 percent of same-sex couples being married in Washington come from outside the Evergreen State. Washington is the first state in the West where marriage equality is legal and the first state west of Iowa.
The state’s figures came out on the same day as a national Pew Research poll, showing for the first time in Pew’s history a majority of Americans favoring marriage equality — with a top heavy majority believing it is inevitable.
By a 51-42 percent margin, Americans believe same-sex couples should be allowed to wed. The support for marriage equality is highest (64 percent) in the Northeast, where same-sex marriage is now legal in every New England state plus New York. Support is strong in the West (53 percent), where Washington is the first state to vote for marriage equality. Backing is weakest in the South (43 percent) where no state has legalized gay marriage.
“Opposition to gay marriage, and to societal acceptance of homosexuality, is rooted in religious attitudes and a belief that engaging in homosexual behavior is a sin,” Pew found.
But . . . Despite vocal opposition from Catholic bishops — along with threats and warnings directed at those who disagree — a whopping 61 percent of American Catholics surveyed said that they support marriage equality. Fifty-six percent of mainline Protestants back same-sex marriage, but only 22 percent of Evangelicals.
Seventy-two percent of those surveyed view marriage equality as “inevitable,” Pew found, including 85 percent of supporters as well as 59 percent of opponents. Two-thirds of American Catholics believe marriage equality is coming, despite legal briefs to the Supreme Court from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops defending the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.
Person-to-person contact was a key component of the marriage equality campaign in Washington. If a heterosexual person has friends who are gay, advocates advised, a vote for same-sex marriage was much more likely.
Pew found that contact has helped change attitudes in America: 87 percent of those surveyed said they know a person who is gay or lesbian, with 49 percent saying they have a family member or close friend who is gay or lesbian. Support for marriage equality rises sharply with personal contact.
As well, the attitude of America’s parents toward gay and lesbian offspring is undergoing a sea change.
In 1985, 64 percent of those polled by Pew said they would be “very upset” if a son or daughter came out as a gay, with 25 percent saying they would be “somewhat upset.” Just 9 percent said they would not be upset. By 2000, the figures were down to 36 percent “very upset”, 37 percent “somewhat upset” and 23 percent not upset.
In 2013, just 19 percent of those surveyed still say they would be “very upset” with 21 percent “somewhat upset.” A substantial majority of parents — 55 percent — now say they would not be upset at all.
Pew conducted interviews with 1,504 adult Americans, polling during the first five days of May.
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