The Washington State House on Wednesday
approved a gay marriage bill and sent it to Governor Chris Gregoire
for her approval.
House members approved the measure with
a 55 to 43 vote after a two hour debate. The move comes a day after
a federal court declared California's gay marriage ban, Proposition
violation of the United States Constitution, and one week after
the Washington Senate passed the measure with a wider margin than
Gregoire, who recently began speaking
out in favor of marriage equality, has five days, not counting
Sunday, to sign the measure, which has led to speculation that her
signature could come on Valentine's Day.
Supporters fought back several
amendments offered by Republicans, including one which would extend
the bill's religious protections to include private businesses and
Jamie Pedersen, the measure's chief
sponsor in the House, urged colleagues to approve the measure so that
his four children could grow up knowing that their dads had made a
“lifelong commitment to each other.”
“The name marriage signifies the
unique recognition that society gives to harmonious, loyal, enduring
and intimate relationships. … Mr. Speaker, I would like for our
four children – Trygve, Leif, Erik and Anders – to grow up
understanding that their daddy and their papa have made that kind of
a lifelong commitment to each other. Marriage is the word that we
use in our society to convey that idea,” Pedersen said.
Rep. Maureen Walsh, a Republican from
Walla Walla, said she was voting in favor of marriage equality
because her lesbian daughter is “a fabulous human being” for whom
she someday wants to throw a wedding.
Since 2007, Washington has recognized
gay couples with domestic partnerships. A 2009 expansion of the law
– dubbed “everything but marriage” – gave gay couples all the
protections of marriage.
Opponents of Gregoire's plan to make
Washington the seventh state to legalize gay marriage have vowed to
put the issue before voters in November. However, voters in 2009
rejected an effort to repeal the state's domestic partnerships.
poll released in October found that 55 percent of Washingtonians
would vote against a ballot initiative that attempted to repeal a gay
marriage law and only 38 percent said they would support repeal.