By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer
OLYMPIA — A bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry cleared the state House of Representatives today and will soon be on the desk of the governor for signing.
Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to do that next week and make Washington the seventh state in which same-sex couples can legally wed.
Whether any marriages actually take place is something voters will almost certainly be deciding this fall. Opponents of the legislation are mounting a campaign to repeal the soon-to-be-signed gay marriage bill with a referendum this November.
The House approved the bill on a 55-43 vote. The outcome, viewed for weeks as a foregone conclusion, comes one week after the state Senate backed the bill.
And many of the arguments of last week’s debate echoed in the House chamber today.
Supporters iterated the bill is about granting equal recognition of the relationships of gays and lesbians. They said it will affirm the strength of families, not weaken them.
“We need to extend the same respect and acknowledgement to same-sex couples” that is given to heterosexual marriages, said Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park.
Opponents said the bill is an assault on traditional marriage and fails to adequately protect individuals who choose not to do business with same-sex couples from being discriminated against.
Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said lawmakers are unfortunately turning around the meaning of marriage and “making it a completely different institution.”
An impassioned Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, noticeably upset supporters when he said the House must be “completely confused and misguided” to pursue the change.
“This bill severs the cultural, historical and legal underpinnings of marriage,” he said. It “is an exercise of power that contravenes human nature and will hurt families and children.”
Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor of the bill passed today, and Gregoire watched the debate from the Democratic side of the chamber.
“It took the courage of many legislators who struggled with a difficult issue and decided to do what they believe is best for all Washingtonians to make today’s historic vote possible,” Murray said in a statement issued before the vote. “It will bring to an end what has been, for me, a 17-year struggle in the Legislature to recognize the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples in our state.
“I expect a referendum on this issue, and I remain confident that, ultimately, marriage equality will be Washington’s law,” he said.
HOW THEY VOTED
Yes: Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell; Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace; Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood; Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds; Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park; Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline; Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip; Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett; Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish
No: Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton; Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe; Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish; Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens