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Gay marriage bill gets decisive vote
Same-sex marriage is heading toward reality in Washington.
State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) announced her support of Senate Bill 6239, the bill aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington. Haugen's decision to support the bill is considered the "decisive" vote, giving the state Senate the necessary 25 votes to pass the legislation and make it state law. State Sen. Tracey Eide (D-Federal Way) is among the "yes" votes.
Washington would become the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage, following in the footsteps of New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
SB 6239, and its House counterpart, HB 2516, would allow same-sex couples to begin getting legally married in June, barring any opposition groups obstructing the passage of the proposed law. Those currently in a domestic partnership would have until 2014 to either dissolve their partnership or get married. If they do nothing, they would become legally married in 2014.
For HB 2516, District 30/Federal Way area State Reps. Mark Miloscia (a Democrat) and Katrina Asay (a Republican) plan to vote no, according to sources.
Both bills have provisions that would not require religious organizations to perform same-sex marriages, and accordingly, would not punish such organizations for choosing not to perform the marriage ceremonies of same-sex couples.
Haugen, in a release from the Washington State Senate Democrats blog, said the choice was a difficult one, but to her, the right one.
"I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs…But this issue isn't just about what I believe. It's about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It's about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed."
Haugen's decision comes on the heels of a number of well-known Pacific Northwest companies, including Microsoft and Nike, throwing their support behind the bill in recent weeks.
While it appears passage of these two bills is imminent, opposition groups have already indicated they are willing to fight the proposed law. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, said he feels those who support the bill are overstepping their bounds.
"You are saying as a committee and a Legislature that you know better than God," Hutcherson said during a Jan. 23 committee hearing in Olympia.
Outside of Hutcherson's opposition, Washington's four Catholic bishops are also on record as being in opposition to the bills. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle testified during the Jan. 23 hearing.
"Because only the union of a man and woman can generate new life, no other human relationship is its equivalent," Sartain said. "Were the definition of marriage to change, there would be no special laws to support and recognize the irreplaceable contribution that these married couples make to society and to the common good by bringing life to the next generation."
While the fight looks like it will continue between social conservatives and state lawmakers, Gina Anderson, a lesbian woman in favor of the bill, perhaps made the simplest, and most compelling, argument during the Jan. 23 committee hearing.
"To us, the definition of marriage is simply this: a commitment between two people who love and take care of each other," she said in her testimony. "We want to be able to say those two little words: I do."