With a vote of 55-43, Washington State House of Representatives approved a bill on Wednesday Feb. 8 that will legalize gay marriage in the state of Washington. The state Senate passed the measure earlier with a vote of 28-21.
Washington is the seventh state to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. At the time of print, Governor Christine Gregoire had announced that she planned to sign the bill into law on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.
In doing so, “We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state,” Gregoire said in a press release. “We take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
The measure will not be effective until June of this year.
Supporters of the bill like Carol Ehrhart, president of the The Inland Northwest LGBT Center in Spokane, are not surprised by the outcome.
“The climate, politically, is correct to be moving forward on this issue,” Ehrhart said.
Ehrhart said she knows many couples in the city of Spokane who have been waiting to have the right to get married, and she said she look forward to attending some of their weddings this year.
It is a positive impact any time couples can be recognized for their commitment to each other, Ehrhart said. The passing of the bill is good for everyone in the community of Spokane regardless of sexual preference. She said she trusts the bill will ensure all individuals are seen as being in a committed relationship.
Many were surprised by how quickly the bill was passed. All amendments to the bill that may have slowed it down were rejected and it passed Wednesday night in the same form as it had in the Senate.
One measure that was not altered was a condition that allows religious groups the right to deny service or rental of churches, chapels and other resources.
The bill also grants permission for out-of-state couples to come to Washington to be legally wed.
Opponents of the bill have already promised to propose an initiative and a referendum that could threaten the new bill. A petition to include an initiative to define marriage as between a man and a woman is already in the works. Additionally, a referendum to reverse the bill is being planned, though the petition cannot be started until after the bill is signed into law on Feb. 14.
The initiative tactic was used in California with Proposition 8 after a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage was passed in 2008.
Proposition 8 passed in November 2008, but it was recently reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The court said it ruled that the proposition was unconstitutional because, “Proposition 8’s only effect was to take away that important and legally significant designation.”
It is likely that the initiative and referendum in Washington will be on the ballot in November, but Ehrhart and members of the LGBT Center are optimistic for a vote in favor of gay marriage.
“I think people are beginning to understand the significance of this bill passing,” Ehrhart said.
Sandra Tully Staff Writer
Contact Sandra Tully at email@example.com.
Photo Illustrator: Chrissy Roach