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The bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington is notable for its ambition; that it was proposed by Governor Christine Gregoire, whose last remarks on the issue placed her in the not-yet camp; and the fact that it is supported by those in the legislature who have also changed their minds.
The bill would make Washington the seventh state where same-sex couples are allowed to marry. Bill sponsors are just a few votes short.
In 1998, Washington passed a law saying only a man and woman could marry. The State Supreme Court upheld the law in 2006, but that same year, Washington passed a civil rights bill that recognized domestic partnerships. In 2009, it approved what has become known as an “everything but marriage” law.
Opponents challenged that law through a referendum; voters upheld it 53% to 47%. In 2008, while seeking reelection, Gov. Gregoire suggested that churches should decide the issue, but in her State of the State this month, she said, “Let’s tell the children of our same-sex couples that their parents’ relationship is equal to all others in the state.”
In an interview, the governor said, “I’m a lawyer, I’m a wife, I’m a mom, I’m governor. I’m also a Catholic, and I have struggled with this issue for the last seven years.”
This is Ms. Gregoire’s final year in office. People have speculated that she is supporting same-sex marriage now that the political risk of doing so has diminished, but she has said her position had evolved, in part through conversations with her daughters.
The bill is modeled on the law passed by New York, which included language clarifying that religious groups and churches are not required to marry same-sex partners.
Senator Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat, has been one of the Legislature’s most persistent advocates for same-sex marriage. Sen. Murray said Gov. Gregoire strengthened protections for religious groups beyond what he had proposed.
Some lawmakers say they will organize a coalition to defeat a marriage law, should it pass. On Friday, a group of Roman Catholic bishops issued a statement opposing the new bill.
Sen. Murray, noting that Washington’s petition-friendly system makes any bill passed by the Legislature vulnerable, said he and others had worked since last spring to build support behind the scenes, anticipating a battle in the Legislature and at the polls.
“I’m a little concerned that people are popping the Champagne corks,” he said. “They need to remember it took us years to find one vote on the civil rights bill and we’re several votes short on the marriage bill. We’re very close, but we don’t have the votes yet.”
Via The New York Times.