Gay marriage proponents urged their supporters not to become complacent following news the Legislature has enough votes to make Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen says she’ll support the measure, becoming the 25th vote needed to pass the bill out of the Senate.
The House already has enough support, and Gov. Chris Gregoire has endorsed the plan. Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Seattle Democrat who is the sponsor of the House gay marriage bill, said at a news conference that the issue is not yet resolved. It’s likely that opponents of gay marriage will oppose the measure on a statewide ballot.
If ultimately approved, Washington would join New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in approving gay marriage.
Washington state has had a domestic partnership law since 2007, and an “everything but marriage” law since 2009.
Haugen’s announcement came has hundreds of people filled the capitol to advocate for and against gay marriage. State senators began considering the bill during a morning committee hearing.
“I know this announcement makes me the so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage,” Haugen said in a statement.
She said she took her time making up her mind to “to reconcile my religious beliefs with my beliefs as an American, as a legislator, and as a wife and mother who cannot deny to others the joys and benefits I enjoy. This is the right vote and it is the vote I will cast when this measure comes to the floor.”
Opponents and supporters of gay marriage packed a Senate committee hearing Monday for the first public hearing of the most high-profile issue before the Washington state Legislature this session.
Dozens of people crammed into a small Senate committee hearing room, which was quickly filled to capacity as people lined up outside the room two hours in advance of the 10 a.m. start. The Senate set up three overflow areas for the public, including the public gallery on the Senate floor.
Opponents of gay marriage wore buttons that said “Marriage. One Man. One Woman.” Others wore stickers that read “Washington United for Marriage,” a group that announced in November that it was forming a coalition to support same-sex marriage legislation.
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who has led the push for gay civil rights and domestic partnerships, testified before the Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee with his longtime partner, Michael Shiosaki.
“I have waited 17 years to ask this body to consider marriage equality for gay and lesbian families,” said Murray, who is sponsoring the Senate bill. “I realize the issue of marriage for our families is emotional and divisive. It touches what each of us holds most dear, our families.”