Northwest Has Witnessed Dramatic Shifts In Gay Marriage Views

Jun 26, 2015
Originally published on January 21, 2016 1:48 am

Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage reflects a remarkable shift in Americans' personal views, just in the last decade.

In the Northwest, Idaho’s top elected officials called it disappointing while others celebrated. Many people reflected on their own changing opinions.

Washington’s statewide vote

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray married his husband Michael Shiosaki in 2013. Murray told reporters he tried to have a normal morning the day of the decision -- and sleep in a little.

“I was on my stationary bike in our basement and my communications director texted me and said 'it's full equality' and I texted back and said, ‘Really?'" Murray said with a laugh. “Which was really my reaction.”

Washington was the first Northwest state to have full-fledged legal gay marriage. It happened through a statewide vote in 2012. But Murray said when he was younger he never thought he would see same-sex marriage legalized nationwide.

And it seemed unlikely, even a decade ago.

In a more conservative part of the state, Maureen Walsh believes she has seen a change in Walla Walla, which she represents in the Washington legislature as a Republican. Walsh took heat in her district for giving an impassioned speech in favor of same sex marriage in 2012.

“But on the other hand I think if I were to poll the voters in my district now, I think they would be supportive,” she said.

Walsh's daughter is engaged to a woman. They plan to get married this fall.

Striking down a ban in Oregon

In Oregon in 2004, couples took to the airwaves to ask voters to say “no” to a gay marriage ban. They talked about practical concerns.

A couple in one 'No on Measure 36' ad said, “We worry 36 could put our contracts taking responsibility for each other at risk.”

Oregonians passed the gay marriage ban anyway. But in 2014, the state refused to even defend the ban, allowing a federal judge to strike it down.

Matt Friday of Eugene made his vows to his husband Bruce Carlson after same-sex marriage became legal in Oregon. But he said it wasn’t quite the same as other legal marriages, until the Supreme Court ensured it would be recognized nationwide.

“It invites us in full-heartedly into citizenship,” Friday said.

Changing opinions in Idaho

Idaho took a very different path to gay marriage. It had a voter-passed constitutional ban on the books up until last fall. That’s when a federal appeals court forced the state to start granting licenses -- a decision the governor has been contesting ever since.

Idaho Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden only spoke through written statements about the Supreme Court’s ruling. Otter called the decision “truly disappointing” and Wasden’s spokesperson said their office was still reviewing it.

But some in this conservative state said their opinions are changing. Brent Schlotthauer of Coeur d'Alene heard about the ruling on the news.

“Let's see, it's a nationwide ruling, right, it affects all the states, right?” he said. “You know, I think it's a good thing.”

Schlotthauer said he was raised to believe homosexuality was wrong.

“Really not sure where I stand on that, but given the fact that in some states it's legal and some it's not, I think that being uniform across the country is really a good thing,” Schlotthauer said.

A few blocks away, it was a big day for Tracy Sandusky, too. He and his fiancee Julie Wilson drove up from Oregon City to get married in Coeur d'Alene. Sandusky said he’s had a change of heart on whether same-sex couples should have the same right.

“Six years ago I probably would have said no, but I met a couple -- a couple couples -- since then,” he said. “And I'm a truck driver myself. And one was a truck driver and the other was a landscaper. And they were cool people. And I just – I don't know, I'm a little more open minded than I used to be. I guess if you love somebody and you want to spend your life with them, that's what it's all about.”

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the ruling that same-sex couples “ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

He continued, “The constitution grants them that right.”

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Rachael McDonald, Austin Jenkins, and Derek Wang contributed to this report.

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