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State Senate approves gay marriage bill

The Washington State Senate voted 28-21 to approve the gay marriage bill Feb. 1, taking Washington one step closer to being the seventh state to allow marriage between same-sex partners.

"A lot of people are just stunned, particularly in my age group and older," said Senator Ed Murray in a press conference before the vote. Murray, a gay man himself, has been one of the champions at the state level in attempts to extend marriage rights to gay couples.

"I don't think we actually believed this day would come in our lifetimes," he said. "I certainly didn't believe that when these battles started in the '90s."

Sen. Tracey Eide, who represents Federal Way and the surrounding areas, felt this vote was a step in the right direction.

"I have always stood against discrimination, and I know this legislation will bring us closer to equality for all of Washington's families," she said. "For decades our country has struggled with discrimination in many forms. I am proud that, in the past, our state has joined together to support equality for women, racial minorities, people with disabilities, and religions…I support marriage equality and voted in favor of this long overdue piece of legislation to ensure all of our children grow up in a society that truly promotes equality."

Gov. Christine Gregoire, who introduced the measure, said the Senate's vote was another step in getting Washington state "out of the business of discrimination."

"Tonight we saw the best of Washington and our leaders. They were respectful and they were kind. I thank Senator Ed Murray for his leadership," she said. "This vote was courageous and was only possible with bipartisan support. That support shows Washington's commitment to equality. Fair-minded and responsible leaders crafted a bill that protects religious freedoms while ensuring equal rights. I commend our state senators who acknowledged tonight that separate but equal is not equal."

The protection of religious freedoms the governor noted involves a provision in the bill that allows for religious organizations to choose whether they will marry gay couples. Another provision in the bill also ensures that religious organizations will not be compelled by the law to engage in marriage counseling or similar services for same-sex couples.

While it was a night of celebration for those in support of the bill, those opposed have already made clear their intentions to challenge the formative law. Talk of a ballot measure in the fall has been circulating, which most observers believe will be similar to the battle that played out in 2009, when the two sides fought over the expanded role of domestic partnerships in the state.

 

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