LGBT rights in Washington
Map of USA WA.svg
StatusLegal since 1976
(Legislative repeal)
Gender identityTransgender people allowed to change legal gender, surgery not required
Discrimination protectionsSexual orientation and gender identity or expression protected
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2012;
Domestic partnership since 2007
AdoptionSame-sex couples permitted to adopt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the U.S. state of Washington have evolved significantly since the late 20th century. Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1976. LGBT people are fully protected from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations; the state enacting comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in 2006. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2012, and same-sex couples are allowed to adopt. Conversion therapy on minors has also been illegal since 2018.

Washington is frequently referred to as one of the United States' most LGBT-friendly states,[1] and its largest city Seattle has a thriving LGBT community, ranked as the fifth largest in the country.[2] Opinion polling has shown that a majority of Washingtonians support same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. A 2019 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 74% of residents supported anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people.[3] In November 2012, voters approved a same-sex marriage law in Referendum 74.

History

Several Native American tribes in modern-day Washington recognize individuals who act, behave and live as the opposite gender, now referred to as "two-spirit". Among the Quileute people, such individuals are known as yah'wa. After being created from the northern portion of the Oregon Territory in 1853, the newly-created Washington Territory adopted all its laws from Oregon. At the time, the Oregon Territory did not criminalize sodomy (it did, however, enact a sodomy law later that year). The Washington Territory thus did not possess a sodomy law at its creation, nor did it ever pass one later on; the Washington Territory being one of the few United States territories never to criminalize sodomy. In 1893, shortly after statehood, in the case of State v. Place, the Washington Supreme Court took note of the absence of a sodomy law. The Washington State Legislature acted swiftly, enacting Washington's first ever sodomy law only 19 days after the Place ruling. It prohibited "crimes against nature" with ten to fourteen years' imprisonment. Over the following years, the courts convicted multiple people of sodomy, though also rejected some cases due to lack of evidence. As was the case for sodomy laws around the country at the time, the law punished both heterosexual and homosexual conduct and criminalized fellatio (oral sex) and anal intercourse.[4]

Washington enacted a sterilization law in 1909, permitting "habitual criminals" to be forcefully sterilized. The only known person to be sterilized under the law was a (heterosexual) man in 1912 accused of statutory rape, though he was later found innocent of the crime. The law was amended in 1921, providing for the "possible sterilization of [...] moral degenerates and sexual perverts". The Washington Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional in 1942, holding that the "mental condition [of the accused] did not allow them fully to understand the nature of the notice". Those convicted of sodomy were further defined as "sexual psychopaths" under a 1949 psychopathic offender law. In 1953, the Supreme Court ruled that non-penetrative sex could not be considered sodomy, and in 1967, in the case of State v. Rhinehart, upheld the sodomy law as constitutional. The defendant, Keith Rhinehart, challenged the law as a violation of his right to privacy and on the grounds of vagueness and the establishment of religion, though the Court held that these contentions had "no merit".[4] In 1972, a same-sex couple holding hands at a Seattle skating rink were arrested, resulting in protests and renewed debate surrounding the sodomy law.

In 2020, the Washington State Legislature established an LGBT coordinator within the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation to this effect also allows LGBT veterans who received an dishonorable discharge under Don't Ask, Don't Tell to have that discharge changed, and ensures that those veterans and their families have access to veteran benefits.[5][6]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity

Washington repealed its laws that criminalized consensual sodomy in June 1975,[7] effective on July 1, 1976.[8] Initially, the age of consent was different for heterosexual and homosexual conduct, though was unified in 1988 at 16.[4]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Main articles: Domestic partnership in Washington State and Same-sex marriage in Washington state

A newly married couple leaving Seattle City Hall is greeted by well-wishers on the first day same-sex marriages are celebrated in Washington state.
A newly married couple leaving Seattle City Hall is greeted by well-wishers on the first day same-sex marriages are celebrated in Washington state.

Since 2001, Washington state has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.[9]

The state adopted a statute defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in 1998. In the 2006 case of Andersen v. King County, the Washington Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of that law.[10] Since 2007, Washington state has recognized its own state-registered domestic partnerships, which are considered equivalent to the domestic partnerships, civil unions, and marriages of same-sex couples in other jurisdictions. It has also recognized same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships established in other jurisdictions since then.[11]

Since 2011, Washington state has recognized same-sex marriages performed elsewhere as the equivalent of its own domestic partnerships.[12][13]

Governor Chris Gregoire signed a law authorizing same-sex marriages on February 13, 2012, but opponents gathered enough signatures to force a voter referendum on the legislation.[14][15] Voters approved the law in the November election by a margin of 54% to 46%.[16] Same-sex marriages have been recognized by the state since that law took effect on December 6.[17] The law also provided that Washington's registered domestic partnerships convert automatically to marriages on June 30, 2014, if not dissolved before that date.[18]

Federal income tax

The Internal Revenue Service ruled in May 2010 that its rules governing communal property income for married couples extend to couples who file taxes in a community property state that recognizes domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages. Couples with registered domestic partnerships in Washington, a community property state, must first combine their annual income and then each must claim half that amount as his or her income for federal tax purposes.[19] However, filing such returns precludes electronic filing,[20][21] and Washington has no state income tax independently justifying a complex filing. In certain circumstances, the IRS allows affected couples to disregard community property rules.[22] Since April 2011, Washington has recognized same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions as equivalent to its domestic partnerships,[13] with the result that community property rules now apply to these couples as well, when residing in Washington.

Adoption and parenting

Washington state law permits a legally competent adult to petition to adopt without respect to marital status.[23] Same-sex couples can adopt jointly and can arrange second-parent adoptions as well.[24][25]

Lesbian couples are allowed to access in vitro fertilisation.[26] State law recognizes the non-genetic, non-gestational mother as a legal parent to a child born via donor insemination, irrespective of the marital status of the parents.[27] Commercial surrogacy has been legal in Washington since January 1, 2019. Couples, regardless of their gender, marital status or sexual orientation, may undertake surrogacy arrangements.[28][29]

Previously, the state recognized and enforced custody decrees from other countries in child custody cases–even if those decrees stemmed from foreign laws criminalizing homosexuality. In April 2021, a bill passed the Washington State Legislature (passing the House by a vote of 96–2 and the Senate by 49 votes to 0) to protect families from facing the death penalty in certain foreign jurisdictions on the basis of their religious beliefs, political beliefs or sexual orientation. The legislation allows the state to ignore state law if it would subject parents and children to such foreign laws. Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill into law on April 14.[30]

Discrimination protections

Participants waving a rainbow flag at the 2012 Seattle Pride parade
Participants waving a rainbow flag at the 2012 Seattle Pride parade
Seattle Pride parade 2012
Seattle Pride parade 2012

Washington state law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.[31] The protections were added in 2006 with Washington House Bill 2661, signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire, a member of the Democratic Party. Discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment had already been prohibited since 1991 by an executive order of Governor Booth Gardner.

Moreover, the state's anti-bullying law prohibits bullying on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, honorably discharged veteran or military status, presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability, or use of a trained dog guide or service animal. The law also explicitly includes cyberbullying and harassment, and applies to all public schools and public charter schools.[32][33]

On March 7, 2014, Mark Zmuda filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court against Eastside Catholic School and the Archdiocese of Seattle charging illegal termination of his employment as an assistant principal and swimming coach at the school in December 2013 after his same-sex marriage entered into the previous July became known to school officials.[34] The Archdiocese was named as a defendant because it has no direct authority over the school but, according to the complaint, ordered his dismissal.[35]

Arlene's Flowers in Richland was fined $1,000 in February 2015 for violating the state's anti-discrimination law for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.[36] In February 2017, the fine was unanimously upheld by the Washington Supreme Court, which held that the florist had no right under the U.S. Constitution's Free Exercise Clause or Free Speech Cause to refuse services to the couple due to her religious beliefs.[36]

Washington state LGBTQ commission

In April 2019, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill to establish the Washington state LGBTQ commission, which will "work with state agencies to develop and implement policies to address the needs of the community". The bill passed the House by a vote of 67–28 and the Senate by a vote of 30–16. The Governor signed the bill into law on May 13, 2019 and it went into effect on July 28, 2019.[37][38]

Washington State hospitals

Since July 1, 2021, all hospitals within Washington State under a state law enacted require "clear demographics and/or characteristics information profiles of any individuals included within healthcare databases" - that explicitly lists both sexual orientation and gender identity. California has very similar legislation enacted.[39]

2013 Florist Washington state case

In November 2021, the "florist famous case" was dropped with a settlement agreed to by all parties involved. The florist will pay damages to the same-sex couple affected. The lawsuit was established in 2013.[40]

Hate crime law

Washington state law criminalizes "malicious harassment" and violence motivated by the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.[41]

Gay panic defense

In February 2020, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill, by a vote of 90–5 in the House and 46–3 in the Senate, to abolish the gay panic defense. The bill was signed into law in March 2020 by Governor Jay Inslee, and went into effect in June 2020.[42][43][44]

Transgender rights

See also: Transgender rights in the United States

In order for a transgender person in Washington to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, they must submit to the Washington State Department of Health a completed "Request to Change Sex Designation on a Birth Certificate for an Adult" form, signed in front of a notary. If the applicant is a minor, they must fill out a "Request to Change Sex Designation on a Birth Certificate for a Minor" signed by a parent or legal guardian and a health care/mental health care provider. The department will change the sex designation to "M" (male), "F" (female) or "X" upon request of the applicant.[45] The State Department of Licensing will issue a driver's license or state ID with a gender marker of "M", "F" or "X" upon receipt of a completed "Change of Gender Designation Request" form signed by the applicant.[46] Sex reassignment surgery is not a legal requirement to change the gender marker on official documents. Surgery, puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and other transition-related healthcare for transgender people is covered under health insurance and state Medicard policies.[47]

Transgender people in Washington are allowed to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. In February 2016, the Washington State Senate voted 24–25 to reject a bill that would have repealed a new rule issued by the state's Human Rights Commission that allows transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.[48] One Democrat voted in favor of repealing the new rule, while 3 Republicans voted against repealing it. Following the bill's defeat, supporters began collecting signatures to have the issue placed on the ballot in November 2016. However, in July, it was revealed that not enough signatures had been collected.[49]

Since January 27, 2018, the Washington State Department of Health has allowed people to register their sex as "X" on birth certificates.[50] A similar option on driver's licenses became available on November 13, 2019.[51][52][53]

Seattle allows single occupant restrooms in city facilities and public places to be used by any person, regardless of sex or gender identity.[54]

Since January 1, 2022 under the "Gender Affirming Treatment Act" in Washington State will legally cover sex reassignment surgery for insurance purposes under Medicaid.[55] Also the same law removes "parental permission" for sex reassignment surgery on teenagers in Washington State.[56]

Conversion therapy

See also: List of U.S. jurisdictions banning conversion therapy

On February 13, 2014, the Washington House of Representatives voted 94–4 in favor of a bill that would have prohibited health care providers from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors.[57][58] The state Senate, controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus, took no action on the legislation.[59]

Another bill was introduced in 2015. It passed the Senate in March. The House then approved a modified version of the bill in a 60–37 vote.[60] However, in April, the Senate voted 27–22 to refuse to consider the modified bill.[61]

After Democrats took control of the Washington Senate at the end of 2017, legislation (known as Senate Bill 5722) banning conversion therapy was approved 32–16, with 1 "excused from the chamber" (due to disorderly conduct) on January 19, 2018.[62] The bill then passed the state House of Representatives by a vote of 66–32, and had to go back to the Senate for another vote due to some amendments. The Senate later passed the amended bill by a vote of 33–16. Governor Jay Inslee signed it into law on March 28, 2018.[63] The law went into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative term (i.e. June 7, 2018).

Local bans

On August 1, 2016, Seattle voted to ban conversion therapy on minors.[64][65] Councilmember Lorena González sponsored the ban, and it was unanimously approved by all other eight city councilmembers. Mayor Ed Murray signed the ordinance on August 3 and it took effect on October 2, 2016.[66]

Court challenge rejected

In August 2021, courts rejected the challenge to the legal ban on conversion therapy within Washington State.[67]

Public opinion

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 73% of Washington residents supported same-sex marriage, while 21% were opposed and 6% were unsure.[68]

Public opinion for LGBT anti-discrimination laws in Washington
Poll source Date(s)
administered
Sample
size
Margin of
error
% support % opposition % no opinion
Public Religion Research Institute January 2-December 30, 2019 1,268 ? 74% 18% 8%
Public Religion Research Institute January 3-December 30, 2018 1,433 ? 75% 19% 6%
Public Religion Research Institute April 5-December 23, 2017 1,762 ? 73% 20% 7%
Public Religion Research Institute April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016 1,923 ? 75% 19% 6%

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal
Yes
(Since 1976)
Equal age of consent (16)
Yes
(Since 1988)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment, housing and public accommodations
Yes
(Since 2006)
Anti-discrimination laws for intersex people
No
Hate crime laws inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity
Yes
Same-sex marriages
Yes
/
No
(Since 2012, disputed in Yakama Reservation; banned in the Lummi and Kalispel reservations since 2008 and 2017)[69]
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. domestic partnerships)
Yes
(Since 2007)
Stepchild and joint adoption by same-sex couples
Yes
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people allowed to serve openly in the military
Yes
(Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military
Yes
(Since 2021)[70]
Intersex people allowed to serve openly in the military
X
(Current DoD policy bans "hermaphrodites" from serving or enlisting in the military)[71]
Right to change legal gender without sex reassignment surgery
Yes
Third gender option
Yes
(Since 2018 for birth certificates and since 2019 for driver's licenses)[51][72][73]
LGBT anti-bullying law in schools
Yes
[74]
Abolition of the gay panic defense
Yes
(Since 2020)[43][44]
Conversion therapy banned
Yes
(Since 2018)
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures
No
Equal access to IVF for lesbian couples
Yes
Surrogacy arrangements legal for gay male couples
Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood
Yes
/
No
(Since 2020; 3-month deferral period)[75]

See also

References

  1. ^ "The best and worst states for LGBT equality". MSNBC.
  2. ^ Balk, Gene (March 20, 2015). "Survey ranks Seattle area for 5th for LGBT population — so how many people is that?". Seattle Times.
  3. ^ The American Values Atlas: Washington
  4. ^ a b c The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States: Washington
  5. ^ "SB 5900, Promoting access to earned benefits and services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer veterans". Washington State Legislature.
  6. ^ "Washington State Legislative, LGBTQ Caucus". sdc.wastateleg.org.
  7. ^ William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201n, available online, accessed April 10, 2011
  8. ^ Stein, Alan (November 29, 2012). "Marriage Equality and Gay Rights in Washington". History Link.
  9. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
  10. ^ "Washington Supreme Court rules in favor of Defense of Marriage Act". Catholic News Agency. July 26, 2006. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  11. ^ Washington's 2007 Domestic Partnership Law — A Detailed Look
  12. ^ Seattle Times: Molly Rosbach, "Washington domestic partnership law gets adjusted," April 5, 2011, accessed April 6, 2011
  13. ^ a b Washington State Legislature: 2010-2011 Session Laws of the State of Washington, accessed February 18, 2012, pages 385-386 of an 1118-page PDF
  14. ^ "Gay marriage in Washington state blocked by proposed referendum". Reuters. June 6, 2012.
  15. ^ "Gregoire signs gay marriage into law". February 13, 2012. Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  16. ^ "Referendum Measure No. 74 Concerns marriage for same-sex couples". November 27, 2012. Archived from the original on December 14, 2012. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  17. ^ Khouri, Andrew (December 5, 2012). "Same-sex couples can get marriage licenses in Washington state". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  18. ^ Turnbull, Lornet (February 16, 2014). "State to same-sex domestic partners: You're about to be married". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  19. ^ New York Times: Tara Siegel Bernard, "Tax Season Gets Trickier for Some Gay Couples," March 29, 2011, accessed April 5, 2011
  20. ^ USA Today: Sandra Block, "State and federal tax laws conflict for same-sex couples," February 13, 2012, accessed February 18, 2012
  21. ^ WorldWideWeb Tax "How does living in a community property state effect my tax return?" Archived 2011-12-02 at the Wayback Machine, accessed February 18, 2012
  22. ^ Internal Revenue Service: Publication 555, Community Property, accessed February 17, 2012, pages 7-8
  23. ^ "Washington Adoption Law". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  24. ^ "Adoption in Washington State: A Lifelong Developmental Journey" (PDF). Washington State Department of Social & Health Services. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 15, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  25. ^ Schreiber, Tera. "Almost Hitched: Long-term Relationships and the Law in Washington State". Seattle Woman. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  26. ^ Same Sex Couples Overlake Reproductive Health
  27. ^ "Washington's equality profile". Movement Advancement Project.
  28. ^ Commercial surrogacy exploits women, opponents say
  29. ^ SB 6037 - 2017-18
  30. ^ "WA HB1042". LegiScan.
  31. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Washington Non-Discrimination Law Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine, accessed April 11, 2011
  32. ^ Washington Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies
  33. ^ WAC 392-190-0555 Discriminatory harassment
  34. ^ Morris-Young, Dan (March 7, 2014). "Vice principal fired for same-sex marriage files lawsuit". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved March 8, 2014.
  35. ^ Connelly, Joel (March 6, 2014). "Ousted Eastside Catholic vice principal fired for his gay marriage will sue". Seattle PI. Retrieved March 8, 2014.
  36. ^ a b Thompson, Lynn (16 February 2017). "Richland florist discriminated against gay couple by refusing service, state Supreme Court rules". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  37. ^ "SB 5356 - 2019-20". app.leg.wa.gov.
  38. ^ "Washington Senate Bill 5356". LegiScan.
  39. ^ "Hospital Transparency and Reporting (2021 Session E2SHB 1272)".
  40. ^ "Love wins! Florist who wouldn't serve gay couple drops Supreme Court case & will pay men damages / LGBTQ Nation".
  41. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Washington Hate Crimes Law Archived 2012-02-04 at the Wayback Machine, accessed April 11, 2011
  42. ^ "Washington State Bans 'Gay Panic' Defense of Homicide". US News. Olympia. March 6, 2020.
  43. ^ a b "Washington approves Nikki Kuhnhausen Bill to ban 'gay panic' defense of homicide". KATU News. Olympia. February 27, 2020.
  44. ^ a b "HB 1687". Washington State Legislature.
  45. ^ "The Rights Of Transgender People In Washington State". ACLU of Washington Foundation. May 27, 2016. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  46. ^ "Washington". National Center for Transgender Equality.
  47. ^ "Washington's Equality Profile". Movement Advancement Project.
  48. ^ Reynolds, Daniel (February 11, 2016). "Transphobic Bathroom Bill Dies in Washington State". Advocate. Here Media Inc. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  49. ^ Camden, Jim (July 7, 2016). "'Transgender bathroom' initiative won't make Washington ballot". News. The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  50. ^ New state rule allows gender X on birth certificates
  51. ^ a b "Washington is the latest state to allow people to change their gender designation to 'X' on driver licenses". Hawaii News Now. Olympia. November 14, 2019.
  52. ^ "Washington soon to allow X gender designation on driver's licenses". Dayton 24/7 Now. 31 July 2019.
  53. ^ Perez, Devin (31 July 2019). "Washington State to add Gender X to drivers licenses for those who don't identity as male or female". iFiberone.
  54. ^ "All-Gender Restrooms". seattle.gov.
  55. ^ "Washington Steps up Insurance Protections for Gender Affirming Treatments".
  56. ^ "Rantz: WA laws now allow teen gender reassignment surgery without parental consent". 11 January 2022.
  57. ^ "Bill to prohibit conversion therapy on LGBT youth passes Washington House". LGBTQ Nation. February 14, 2014.
  58. ^ HB 2451 - 2013-14 - Restricting the practice of sexual orientation change efforts., Washington State Legislature
  59. ^ "'Pray the gay away' therapy ban stuck in state Senate". Seattle Times. February 27, 2014.
  60. ^ "Washington state House approves ban on conversion therapy for LGBT youth". LGBTQ Nation. Associated Press. April 10, 2015. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
  61. ^ Washington State GOP Blocks Bill to Ban Abusive “Gay Conversion” Therapy Including Electric Shocks and Ice Baths
  62. ^ "Senate passes conversion ban, transgender bullying bills". The Olympian. January 19, 2018.
  63. ^ SB 5722 - 2017-18
  64. ^ Seattle Bans Conversion Therapy for Minors
  65. ^ Seattle bans gay conversion 'therapy'
  66. ^ AN ORDINANCE related to human rights; and adding a new Chapter 14.21 to the Seattle Municipal Code to prohibit the practice of conversion therapy on minors.
  67. ^ "Challenge to Washington's law banning conversion therapy rejected in court". 31 August 2021.
  68. ^ Consulting, Epicenter. "PRRI – American Values Atlas". ava.prri.org.
  69. ^ "The Law and Order Code of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians" (PDF). kalispeltribe.com/government/tribal-court/law-order-code. Retrieved 19 Feb 2019.
  70. ^ Baldor, Lolita; Miller, Zeke (January 25, 2021). "Biden reverses Trump ban on transgender people in military". Associated Press.
  71. ^ "Medical Conditions That Can Keep You From Joining the Military". Military.com. 10 May 2021.
  72. ^ "Washington could add third gender option for state-issued ID cards by October". Q13 News. July 31, 2019.
  73. ^ Villarreal, Daniel (August 2, 2019). "Washington & Pennsylvania now offer non-binary options on state ID cards". LGBTQ Nation.
  74. ^ "Safe Schools Laws". lgbtmap.org.
  75. ^ McNamara, Audrey (April 2, 2020). "FDA eases blood donation requirements for gay men amid "urgent" shortage". CBS News.