WATCH LIVE: Wash. Senate vote on marriage

Via Twitter, above is a shot of the standing-room-only crowd tonight in the gallery of the Washington Senate, which is reportedly set to debate and vote on a marriage equality bill at 8 p.m. Central time (6 p.m. Pacific).

We’re told you’ll be able to watch the proceedings live here. The Twitter hashtag is #WA4M.

The bill is widely expected to pass both the Senate tonight and the House at a later date. Gov. Christine Gregoire supports the bill and would sign it. However, Washington is a referendum state so once the bill becomes law, the opposition will have until June to collect 120,557 valid signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

UPDATE, 8:05 p.m.: The Senate convened at 8 p.m. Dallas time but quickly stood at ease so the two parties could caucus. The Senate is expected to reconvene shortly.

UPDATE, 8:50 p.m.: The Senate has reconvened and is working its way through several amendments to the bill, many of which deal with exemptions for religious institutions.

UPDATE, 10 p.m.: The Senate voted 28-21 to approve the bill. Here’s a press release from Washington United for Marriage:

Washington State Senate Approves Historic Legislation Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage
Bill passes 28-21 on bipartisan vote; house approval expected as soon as next week

OLYMPIA – Washington United for Marriage, a broad statewide coalition of organizations, congregations, unions and business associations that will work to obtain civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Washington State in 2012, today cheered the Washington State Senate’s vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage legislation in Washington State.  The measure passed by a bipartisan vote of 28-21, with 23 Democrats and four Republicans joining together to advance the bill.  

“We thank Majority Leader Brown, Sen. Murray and the bipartisan coalition of senators who stood with us today in the name of equality,” said Lacey All, Chair of Washington United for Marriage.  “The overwhelming support we’re seeing from businesses, labor, faith communities and people all across the state is a testament to the momentum of this movement and sensibilities of Washingtonians.  Volunteers from every part of the state have contributed thousands of hours of their time to make today possible, and we thank them for their commitment to this issue.”

“As small business owners who pride ourselves on contributing to our community, we are so grateful that today has arrived, and especially for the support of our senator, Mary Margaret Haugen,” said Larry Lowary and Gerry Betz, longtime residents of Washington who live on Whidbey Island.  “We’ve been together for 23 years and entered into our domestic partnership five years ago.  Now we’re looking to the day when we’ll be able to look into each other’s eyes, exchange our vows and finally say ‘I Do’ just like anybody else.”

“The action of the senate today means so much to us, and we thank all the senators who supported this legislation” said Tara Wolfe and A.J. Stolfus, longtime partners from Olympia.  “We moved to Washington years ago in part because of the open and welcoming nature of the people here – something we didn’t always see in Kansas.  We’re simply overjoyed that our friends, family and neighbors can soon recognize us as spouses and our family as being whole.”

The bill now awaits final house approval, which could come as early as next week.  Once the house has passed the legislation, Gov. Chris Gregoire would have five business days to sign it into law, which she has indicated she will do.  Opponents wishing to challenge the new law would have until June to collect 120,557 valid signatures – the amount required to place a referendum on the November 2012 ballot.

—  John Wright

Marriage battle continues in Latin America, with more wins for our side

The Mexico Supreme Court ruled last week that a Mexico City law, passed by legislators there earlier this year, is constitutional. The ruling came in a challenge to the new law pressed mainy by the country’s Roman Catholic religious leaders.

In another victory for LGBT civil rights, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled yesterday (Tuesday) that same-sex marriages performed legally in Mexico City must be legally recognized throughout the country, even though other Mexican states have not legalized gay marriage.

Mexico’s Supreme Court was expected to rule Thursday on an appeal of another law — passed by the Mexico City Legislature the same day that lawmakers legalized gay marriage there — that gives same-sex couples the right to adopt.

And today comes word that the Supreme Court of Costa Rica has ruled that a referendum that had been set to go to voters on Dec. 5 and that would have banned legal recognition of same-sex civil unions is unconstitutional.

“Minority rights that are derived from claims against the majority cannot be subject to a referendum process where majorities are needed,” the court said in a statement, according to Inquirer.net.

The referendum, again pushed by the Catholic Church, had come in response to draft legislation, introduced in 2008, that would give Costa Rican gays and lesbians access to legal civil unions that would carry some of the legal rights of marriage, including inheritance, health benefits and the right to hospital visitation in the event of injury or illness. The legislation has been stalled since it was introduced.

—  admin

Costa Rica’s Supreme Court calls anti-equality marriage referendum unconstitutional

More amazing news today from Latin America by way of Andr?s Duque:

OMG. What IS going on in Latin America! Just a couple of hours ago, the Supreme Court in Costa Rica ruled that a referendum scheduled for December 1st which would have banned marriage rights for same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

The article does not give the vote total but says that the majority determined that the issue of marriage rights was a judicial issue and not an electoral issue and that the rights of minorities should never be subjected to a referendum process where they might be subjected to the wishes of a majority.

Spanish language article here.

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—  John Wright