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Mon., Jan. 23, 2012, 10:14 a.m.

WA Lege Day 15: Overflow crowd for gay marriage hearing

OLYMPIA -- The Legislature opened two overflow areas -- including the Senate gallery itself -- for the crowds who flocked to the capital to testify for and against a bill to legalize same sex marriage.

"I will not tolerate any disruptions," Sen.  Craig Pridemore, D- , who told the crowd, adding that public had a one minute each. " I want to caution both sides to be respectful dluring this hearing."

Speaking at a hearing is not the only way to make your feelings known on a bill, Pridemore said. "In fact it's probably not the best way."

The Senate Government Operations Committee started the day with a 10 a.m. session on SB 6239. House Judiciary will take up a companion bill

Jim Justin, Gov. Chris Gregoire's spokesman, said he wanted to dispel any suggestion that the governor doesn't fully support the bill: "She is 150 percent supportive of this legislation."

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor of the bill, appeared at the hearing with his partner of more than 20 years, Michael  Shiosaki, a Spokane Valley native. Murray said he has waited 17 years to introduce such a bill to the Legislature; Shiosaki said they try to keep their political life separate from their private life.

"Commitment is always about being there for each other, in good times and bad," Shiosaki said. "Domestic partnership offers many benefits, but it is not marriage. We hope this is the year we can marry."

The staff presentation on the bill centered on its religious exemption, which does not allow any civil claims against a church or religious organization that refuses to perform or "solemnize" a same-sex marriage.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.