MARRIAGE EQUALITY ON THE MARCH: On February 13, as Rick Santorum campaigned from Olympia to Tacoma, Washington became the seventh state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. Coming on the heels of the Proposition 8 ruling in California, the long-awaited victory was won through the efforts of State Senator Ed Murray of Seattle, who has tried to pass a marriage-equality law during every legislative biennium since 1997. But his battle isn’t over just yet.
The National Organization for Marriage has promised a referendum campaign to put the issue before voters in November—as well as $250,000 to take out and replace any Republicans who supported the bill. NOM made the same threats last year in New York, when four GOP state senators cast the deciding votes for its marriage equality law, but progressive activists funded campaigns to defend them from NOM-backed challengers. In Washington a ballot measure poses a greater threat. NOM and its allies are widely expected to gather the 120,577 signatures needed, and are stockpiling funds for a campaign to sway voters. Gay rights advocates have reason to be hopeful. A University of Washington poll this past fall showed that voters would uphold the law by a margin of 55 to 38. But with hateful rhetoric and a campaign bankrolled by out-of-state groups, anything is possible.
Statements of support from Northwest businesses like Starbucks, Microsoft and Nike lent Murray’s bill crucial momentum and will be important moving forward. Their message, embodied by a Microsoft blog post titled “Marriage Equality in Washington State Would be Good for Business,” was particularly compelling for Murray. “Businesses and communities that are tolerant and open to diversity are businesses and communities that can recruit the most talented people,” he told The Nation. CONNOR GUY
JUSTICE IN REVERSE IN SPAIN: On February 9 the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that judge Baltasar Garzón was guilty of “totalitarian” practices when he ordered wiretaps to intercept lawyer-client communications in a case that had helped unearth massive corruption within the ruling conservative People’s Party. The prosecution was unprecedented and politically motivated; Garzón—the closest thing the human rights movement has to a rock star—was suspended from the courts for eleven years, in effect ending his judicial career.
But the real losers are those in Spain, Latin America and Guantánamo who thought they could count on at least one independent judge to apply human rights laws without fear of political consequences. Garzón’s real crime was seeking to investigate the atrocities of Francisco Franco in the same way he did in the case of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. Groups like Human Rights Watch saw that we could use the “Pinochet precedent” to bring to justice tyrants and torturers who had seemed out of its reach. For more on the ruling, see “The Conviction of Baltasar Garzón” at TheNation.com. REED BRODY