Win for gay marriage in Washington state

2012-02-09 10:00

Olympia - A bill to legalise gay marriage in Washington state won final legislative approval on Wednesday in a vote that moved the state one step closer to becoming the seventh to recognise same-sex nuptials.

Washington's Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire said she looked forward to signing the measure and "putting into law an end to an era of discrimination" even as opponents, led by religious conservatives, vowed to seek its repeal at the polls in November.

The approval in the state House of Representatives came a day after gay marriage advocates won a key legal victory in California when a federal appeals court declared a voter-approved gay marriage ban in that state unconstitutional.

The measure cleared the state House of Representatives 55-43, a week after it was passed by the state Senate by a 28-21 vote. Democrats, accounting for the lion's share of support for the bill, control both legislative bodies in the state capital Olympia but enjoy a bigger majority in the 98-seat House.

Two Republicans joined 53 Democrats in voting for the bill, while two Democrats sided with 41 Republicans in opposition.

Several prominent Washington-based companies employing tens of thousands of workers in the state also endorsed the bill, including Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks.

Similar statutes

Six other states already recognise same-sex marriage - New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa - as does the District of Columbia.

But neither Tuesday's legal ruling in San Francisco nor the statehouse action in Olympia, Washington will immediately alter the status quo for gay couples.

The outcome of the court challenge in California is likely to remain stayed until the appeals process finishes running its course, and the Washington state measure cannot go into effect before early June.

Supporters are pushing similar statutes in Maryland and New Jersey, and a referendum to legalise gay marriage in Maine has qualified for the November ballot there.

Wednesday's debate grew emotional at times, with the bill's chief House sponsor, Representative Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat who has four young children with his gay companion of 10 years, arguing that the state's domestic-partnership law falls short.

"I would like our four children to understand ... that their daddy and their papa have made that lifelong commitment to each other," he said. "Thousands of same-sex couples in our state deserve the respect and protection from our government that only marriage can convey."

Marriage about love

Representative Jay Rodne, a Republican who said he was guided by his Roman Catholic faith to oppose gay marriage, said the measure was tantamount to "progressive re-engineering in its most extreme and damaging form.

"This bill is about validation. This bill is about acceptance ... . Marriage is not about self-actualisation, validation or acceptance," he said. "Marriage is about life."

But his Republican colleague, Glenn Anderson, spoke in favour of the bill, referring to his gay brother and drawing a parallel between Jim Crow racial segregation laws in Alabama, where he grew up, and contemporary laws barring same-sex marriage.

Gregoire, in a statement issued after the vote, said Washington state would "no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love".

"We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state," she said.

The bill is to be formally delivered to Gregoire's desk by the end of the week. She will then have five days to sign it, not including Sunday. That timetable has led to speculation of enactment coming next Tuesday, Valentine's Day.

Repeal referendum

But the law would not take effect before June 7, three months after the conclusion of the legislative session.

Opponents of same-sex marriage said they would seek to overturn the legislation via one of two ballot measures - a referendum for repeal or an initiative defining marriage as the exclusive domain of heterosexual couples.

If a repeal referendum qualifies for the November ballot, the gay marriage law would be suspended until the election and certification of returns, meaning December 6, before it is either repealed or goes into effect.

But should gay marriage opponents pursue an initiative, gay marriages could take place on June 7, regardless of ballot-qualification efforts.

It was unclear whether gay weddings performed in the interim would be nullified if an initiative restricting marriage to male-female unions only were to pass in November.

There is precedent in California for handling such a situation. California's Supreme Court legalised gay marriage in 2008, only for voters to approve a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex matrimony six months later.

Paving the way

The state's high court later upheld the gay marriage ban, known as Proposition 8, but ruled that 18 000 same-sex weddings officiated between May and November 2008 were still legal.

A federal judge later ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, a decision upheld on Tuesday by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Legal experts said that ruling, while narrowly tailored to California, could ease the way for a successful court challenge in Washington state should voters there overturn a gay marriage statute.

  • Godfrey - 2012-02-09 11:37

    Progress. The hate-filled homophobes are becoming more and more an isolated, strident fringe minority.

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-02-09 11:52


      Martino - 2012-02-09 12:41

      "hate-filled" - Prove it Godfrey

      Godfrey - 2012-02-09 13:21

      Ah Martino the Christian homophobe. Oh really - Google American Family Association - listen to the evangelicals in Uganda - the Zulu King - Jacob Zuma. Need more? Strange that you should even ask.

      Martino - 2012-02-09 14:18

      Define "hate" as you understand it. There is a clear difference between disagreement and hate, Godfrey. Do you hate Christians because you disagree with them? Or because they disagree with you?

      Godfrey - 2012-02-09 14:51

      @Martino I am not the one who peddles homophobic discriminatory statements against people who happen to have a different sexual orientation to me. Those that do are in my view hate-filled bigots, and yes, I hate to see them getting away with it. Do I hate Christians. Not really. Certainly I hate all forms of superstition and the many obvious bouffant-haired babblers and silver-tongued swindlers, the morally squalid scamsters, fraudsters and snake oil salesmen. And I will confront the excrement they preach and attempt to protect the young minds they pollute. But the average religious person who goes about the religious belief quietly and who does not attempt to impose those beliefs on me? No, I have no quarrel with them. I believe in freedom of religious belief, thought and the freedom of speech. Judging from your questions, would I right in thinking that you may well be one of those homophobic bigots

      Godfrey - 2012-02-09 16:29

      I see Martino has also now run away. Hit-and-run when challenged hey Martino?

      Martino - 2012-02-09 16:53

      Godfrey, I'm just digging into why you use the description "hate-filled". Jesus said in Mark 12:31, "The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Yes, we are not supposed to hate ANYBODY. Have you forgotten this famous saying of Jesus? I must concede that some Christians have forgotten it.

  • Cracker - 2012-02-09 12:32

    If you value own freedoms you will also value the freedoms of others.

  • Faew - 2012-02-09 19:52

    Does anyone believe we'll have global approval and equality of every sexual arrangement on earth? Issues around sex are always going to be an issue. Its the nature of the beast, and it can make our life more complicated than it should. Disagreement in principle is not hatred or bigotry, and part of the politics is demonizing people who disagree or have religious values or faith that rise above the struggles we face. Politics use these tactics all the time, they're called compliance tactics. Its in the media, in almost every production we watch now along with a hybrid or Prius, in articles that do nothing but divide and set people off to mock and hate those that don't agree with them. Sound hypocritical? Mockery, another compliance tactic. Now adding legislation is like taking it to the next level, like twisting people's arms for validation and approval. People who step forward to disagree on any controversial issue of sex should be credited for caring enough to say so.

  • Samantha - 2012-02-10 11:00

    Freedoms, Rights, Outrage, Opinion, Bigotry, Insult, Ignorance!!!! And the list could go on and on ad infinitum. The never ending cycle of comments and criticisms surrounding the homosexuality issue will keep going on and on and no-one will finally say something the leaves the entire world stunned and muted because there is simply NOTHING left to say on the issue. That being said, I have a question: (Here it comes people the spark that's going to ignite a fireworks pile of notable proportions)...... If something is bad/harmful for you and I stand idly by watching you step into it then what do I have to say for myself? Homosexuality is wrong. I didn't decide that nor did I even say it, I merely pass along what God Himself said about the matter. Jesus in His day, spoke among the people on a regular basis about issues that impacted on their lives and they became so enraged that they sought to kill Him. He didn't sugar coat things and try to keep the peace and make sure He didn't hurt anyone's feelings......He simple stated God's truths because they are far above all else, no matter how we feel or what we think about them.

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