Same-sex marriages tyring to get traction in county



The prospects for same-sex marriages in King County remain in doubt but have taken a step forward with a decision by Seattle’s mayor that the city should formally recognize the marriages of couples who work for the city.

But the executive order Nickels signed Monday applies only to couples who tied the knot where marriage licenses were issued to them.

The county, following state law, doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages and won’t grant licenses for them. That position is being challenged in a lawsuit filed Monday in King County Superior Court by six couples.

The county does, however, grant domestic partner benefits to its employees, and last December the County Council ordered companies that have contracts with the county to do the same for their workers. The intent was to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status.

Councilman Larry Phillips, a primary advocate of the equal rights ordinance, couldn’t be reached for comment on whether the rule could make it more likely that the county might go against state law and declare same-sex marriages are legal.

Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, whose district includes Federal Way, also didn’t reply to a request for comment.

County Executive Ron Sims, who spoke to a crowd of mostly gay-marriage supporters who rallied Monday morning outside the county courthouse in Seattle, has said that while he believes homosexual couples should be allowed to be married, the county stands by Washington law.

About a three-hour drive south in Portland, Ore., hundreds of gay couples

were granted marriage licenses last week after Multnomah County

Council voted to start granting the licenses. Thousands of licenses have been given in San Francisco, Calif. and elsewhere in the U.S. in recent weeks, sparking a debate about constitutional rights versus societal views on whether couples other than heterosexuals can legally marry.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said couples committed to each other should be

able to be married, regardless of whether they’re the same gender. He wants the City Council to extend the recognition he ordered for municipal employees to all residents of Seattle who’ve received marriage licenses.

The equal rights ordinance adopted by the County Council requires county

contractors to provide domestic partner benefits to employees. The ordinance applies to contracts of more than $25,000 but exempts contracts with cities or other governments, real estate contracts and labor union contracts.

The city of Federal Way doesn’t provide domestic partner benefits to its employees.

If a county contractor offers benefits to a married partnership, it must also make them available to non-married couples, or else the county won’t do business with them. The position was taken so that contractors, like the county, “don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or marital status,” Phillips said last December.

The point of the ordinance is equal rights, regardless of legal or moral

arguments over the sanctity of marriage, according to Phillips.

The state Senate last week didn’t act on a proposal from the House of Representatives that that would outlaw sexual-orientation discrimination in housing, employment and financial transactions. The Senate’s inaction terminated House Bill 1809, which Rep. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way and 58 other representatives had approved.

Miloscia said possible passage of the bill by the full Legislature was probably “a long shot.”

“We’ll have to see how situations work out,” Miloscia replied when asked if the Legislature might some day consider changing the state’s marriage law to include homosexuals.

Lambda Legal, a national organization advocating rights for homosexuals, is among groups and individuals demanding marriage licenses for gays.

Opponents of gay marriages include three people at Monday’s rally who were carrying signs with pro-religious, anti-gay messages.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565,

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