Wash. House panel advances marriage bill

RACHEL La CORTE | Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A House committee on Monday approved a measure to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state, setting the stage for final passage this week.

The House Judiciary committee advanced the measure on a 7-5 vote after a public hearing. The bill could be up for a vote on the House floor as early as Wednesday. The Senate passed the measure on a 28-21 vote last Wednesday. Once passed by the House, the bill goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.

Opponents have promised a referendum challenge at the ballot.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, testified in support of the bill, joined by her partner of 23 years, Laura Wulf, and their son.

“We all understand that marriage is not just about contracts and rights and responsibilities,” she said. “It’s about love and commitment.”

Maureen Richardson, the state director for Concerned Women for America, argued that the measure would negatively affect families.

“Marriage is just too important to the culture to be redefined,” she said.

Several Republican amendments were rejected, including one that would have added private businesses and individuals, such as bakers and photographers, to the exemption in the measure that doesn’t require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages and doesn’t subject them to penalties if they don’t marry gay or lesbian couples. Another would have added a referendum clause.

Opponents must turn in 120,577 signatures by June 6. If opponents fall short in the number of signatures they turn in, gay and lesbian couples would be able to be wed as soon as the signature count is done, likely sometime in June. Otherwise, they would have to wait until the results of a November election.

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law since 2007, and an “everything but marriage” expansion of that law since 2009.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Under the measure that passed the Senate Wednesday, the more than 9,300 same-sex couples currently registered in domestic partnerships would have two years to either dissolve their relationship or get married. Domestic partnerships that aren’t ended prior to June 30, 2014, would automatically become marriages.

Domestic partnerships would remain for senior couples where at least one partner is 62 years old or older. That provision was included to help seniors who don’t remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.

—  John Wright

Marriage equality advances in Washington state; Senate floor vote scheduled for Wednesday

On Monday, the Washington state House Judiciary Committee voted 7–6 along party lines to send a marriage-equality bill to the floorfor a vote. A Senate committee voted similarly last week, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

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Gov. Chris Gregoire

The Senate has scheduled a floor vote for Wednesday, and a majority have already announced they’ll vote for the bill. Supporters say House passage is also assured. Gov. Christine Gregoire supports equality.

Washington is a referendum state so once the bill passes and the governor signs, the opposition will have until June to collect 120,557 valid signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

If marriage equality becomes law, Washington will be the seventh state to perform same-sex marriages. The state already has domestic partnerships.

Two additional states — Maine and California — passed marriage equality before voters rescinded it.

—  David Taffet

Marriage bills to be debated in Wash. state

Public hearings on House, Senate measures set for Monday

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BACKING EQUALITY | Gov. Chris Gregoire speaks at a news conference where she said that she wants Washington to become the seventh state in the nation to make same-sex marriage legal, on Jan. 4 in Olympia. (Associated Press)

FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been filed in the Washington House as a companion bill to the measure filed last week in the Senate.

The House bill, requested by Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jamie Pedersen, of Seattle.

The House version of the legislation, which was filed late last week and officially introduced Tuesday, Jan. 17 has 49 Democrats signing on in support and one Republican.

Democrats hold a 56-43 majority in the House, and the gay marriage measure already has enough support to pass that chamber.

The Senate is still short of the 25 votes needed for passage there. Sen. Ed Murray is the sponsor of the Senate bill, and 22 other senators, including two Republicans, have signed on in support.

Both the House and Senate will have public hearings on the bills on Monday, Jan. 23.

Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said in a statement on Friday, Jan. 13 that the House bill represented “the next step towards making the promise of equality a reality in Washington State.”

“The introduction of this bill not only recognizes the value that lesbian and gay families in Washington make to our united community, but also upholds the longstanding tradition of the separation of church and state in this country,” Silk said. “Marriage is about dignity, commitment, love and respect — it is the ultimate expression of a pro-family society. The foundation of marriage helps us build stable families, and now is the time to recognize the importance of treating all families in Washington State equally.”

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law since 2007. An “everything but marriage” bill was passed in 2009, greatly expanding that law. Opponents later challenged it at the ballot box, but voters upheld the law. Nearly 19,000 people in Washington are registered as domestic partners.

Under the bills being considered by the Legislature, people currently registered in domestic partnerships would have two years to either dissolve their relationship or get married. Domestic partnerships that aren’t ended prior to June 30, 2014, would automatically become marriages.

Domestic partnerships would remain for senior couples in which at least one partner is 62 years old or older. That provision was included by lawmakers in 2007 to help seniors who don’t remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.

At this time, six states plus the District of Columbia recognize marriage for same-sex couples under state law: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.      Nine states — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington — provide same-sex couples with access to the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.

The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has pledged $250,000 to work against Republicans who vote for a proposed gay marriage law in Washington state.

“It’s fairly incredible that some legislators would try to legalize homosexual marriage so soon after giving same-sex couples all the rights and privileges of marriage through domestic partnerships,” said NOM President Brian Brown in a statement. “This effort proves that the question is not one of rights but preserving marriage as a child-focused institution that has served families since the dawn of time.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas