Gay marriage bill poised to pass Washington state legislature; opponents consider veto referendum

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January 24, 2012

Washington

On January 4, 2012, Gov. Christine Gregoire announced her support for a law that would extend to same-sex couples the right to receive a marriage license issued by the state of Washington.[1] Less than a month later, the state legislature now appears poised to pass Senate Bill 6239 (and HB 2516, its counterpart in the state House) into law. The bills, sponsored by state Sen. Ed Murray (D) and Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D), provide "equal protection for all families in Washington by creating equality in civil marriage and changing the domestic partnership laws, while protecting religious freedom."[2][3]

Yesterday, the state Senate's Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee held the first in a series of public discussions about the bill, during which opponents and supporters alike offered testimony to the committee. Following the hearing, Democrat Margaret Haugen became the 25th state Senator to come out in favor of the bill, tipping the scale and giving the legislation enough pledged support to pass the state Senate. (The legislation is expected to easily pass the state House). Haugen, citing her "very strong Christian beliefs," said she has always believed - and continues to believe - in traditional marriage between a man and a woman, but explained "this issue isn't about just what I believe. It's about respecting others."[4] The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of marriage equality legislation and several companies with a large presence in Washington state, including Microsoft, RealNetworks and Nike, Inc., have advocated for the bill.

Speaking out against the law, Roman Catholic Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartrain called on Catholics to lobby their legislators against marriage equality. He argued "because only the union of a man and a woman can generate new life, no other human relationship is its equivalent," and spoke ominously of "the grave challenges this legislation poses to the common good."[5] Several other opponents, including Christopher Plante of the National Organization for Marriage and Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, urged lawmakers to put the issue to a popular vote. Backholm has been quoted as saying marriage "has never existed for the purpose of affirming relationships involving adults. The primary function of marriage is to create the greatest likelihood that children will be raised by their mother and father."[6]

Ken Hutcherson of the Kirkland, WA Antioch Baptist Church has become the spokesperson for The Stand for Marriage Coalition, and indicated if the law passes, the group will begin to gather signatures to put a referendum on the ballot to overturn the law this fall.[7] Under state law, citizens who disagree with a statute or bill that has been enacted by the state legislature can collect signatures to force the issue to a vote. If enough signatures are collected, the bill is placed on a statewide ballot.[8]

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References

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