Supporters of gay marriage cheered
Wednesday as a bill legalizing such unions cleared the Washington
“Thank you to the Washington State
House – a civil, respectful debate on marriage equality,”
messaged Governor Chris Gregoire to her more than 8,200 followers on
Twitter. “And a 55-43 vote! Next stop, my desk!”
The Democrat-controlled House easily
defeated many amendments aimed at weakening the bill, including one
that would have expanded the measure's religious protections to
private businesses and individuals. After a sometimes emotional
2-hour debate, House members voted on the measure.
The vote came a day after a federal
court declared California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, in
violation of the United States Constitution, and one week after
the Washington Senate passed the measure with a wider margin than
Gay members of the chamber used
personal accounts in urging colleagues to vote for the measure.
“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,” said Jamie Pedersen, the measure's chief sponsor
in the House.
Most lawmakers who rose to oppose the
bill cited their faith.
“This country was not founded on
sexual liberty,” said Rep. Matt Shea, a Republican. “Where those
two clash, religious liberty should always win out.”
Gay marriage group Freedom to Marry
praised Pedersen for backing the measure.
“Today's win also comes as a result
of dedication from elected officials like Rep. Jamie Pedersen, whose
courageous leadership paved the way for this bill's passage in the
House,” said Thalia Zepatos, director of public engagement at
Freedom to Marry.
“Regardless of their gender, all
couples should have the right to marry and protect their families,”
said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center.
“We are hopeful that this wave of understanding will spread, and
that soon all Americans will be able to live safely, authentically
and free from discrimination.”
Opponents of making Washington the
seventh state to legalize gay marriage have already begun an effort
to repeal the measure at the ballot box. But voters in 2009 rejected
a ballot question aimed at repealing the state's domestic partnership
law, which gives gay and lesbian couples all the protections of
marriage without the name.
Lacey All, the chair of Washington
United for Marriage, the coalition working to pass the bill, said the
group was preparing to defend it at the ballot box.
“We do not doubt our opponents will
be successful in placing a referendum on the ballot, and we will
continue to build upon our momentum and win in November,” All said
in a statement.