February 7, 1998 in City

Gay Marriage Ban Quickly Becomes Law Bill Passed, Vetoed And Overridden In Five Hours Of Political Maneuvering As Democrats Join To Keep Measure Off The Ballot

Associated Press
 

Washington lawmakers, with the active help of the governor, on Friday banned gay marriages, putting to rest a volatile issue that had threatened to overshadow the fall elections.

The choreographed, possibly unprecedented, action included passage of the ban, a quick veto by Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, and an override by bipartisan super-majorities in both houses.

All sides, even longtime backers of gay rights, pronounced themselves satisfied with the result, since it avoids a November referendum.

Foes, including Rep. Ed Murray, who is gay, said they will turn to the courts.

Washington becomes the 27th state with such a ban. The bill, HB1130, defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and says the state will refuse to recognize any same-gender marriages performed elsewhere.

The new law takes effect in 90 days.

Some Democrats had feared the popular issue had the potential to sink some of their candidates on the same ballot, as well as igniting a divisive campaign that would have hammered the gay community, already reeling from a statewide initiative defeat last fall.

It was an unusual day for the Legislature. According to legislative historians, a bill has never been approved, vetoed and overridden all in less than five hours, much less with the governor’s cooperation.

It was Locke’s first veto override, even though he vetoed fully one-fourth of the Republican Legislature’s bills last year. His predecessors, Mike Lowry and Booth Gardner, each had a single bill overridden. Vetoes overridden in the past 20 years: just three.

Republican leaders said it’s possibly the first time in state history that a governor has actively participated in the override process. Locke had made clear he didn’t want the measure on the ballot, but felt duty-bound to veto the bill to keep faith with earlier pledges.

That was as good as inviting the override, said House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, and Senate Majority Leader Dan McDonald, R-Bellevue.

“If you look back, I don’t think you will find anything vaguely like this in all of our legislative history,” Ballard said as he watched the play unfold. “There was a convergence I don’t think you’ve ever seen line up like this before. It’s historical.”

Although the measure has passed the House for three years in a row, engendering raw emotion and political speech-making, once lawmakers knew they had assembled the necessary two-thirds votes of both houses to override Locke, it went like clockwork. Nearly all of the emotion was sanitized, with almost no speeches.

“Now that’s programmed, when nobody even makes a speech!” marveled the Senate presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.

Republicans were prepared to send the measure to the ballot if that were the only way to get around Locke. State GOP Chairman Dale Foreman said internal polls show the ban would pass with a 78 percent majority and would help Republican candidates by drawing conservatives to the polls.

Knowing that, and fearing their own candidates might suffer, Democratic legislative leaders quietly urged Locke to allow the bill to become law without his signature - a rarely used procedure. At first, Locke seemed to concur, but then said he would veto the legislation, as he did last year.

House Minority Leader Marlin Appelwick, D-Seattle, and his Senate counterpart, Sid Snyder, D-Long Beach, then turned to their last remaining option, rounding up enough minority Democrats to put together the two-thirds votes in both houses to override.

It worked.

First, the Senate approved the ban, 34-13, with eight Democrats joining all 26 Republicans in forging a veto-proof majority.

The debate took just a few minutes, and even this turned out to be the longest debate of the day. Sen. Pat Thibaudeau, D-Seattle, called the bill “discrimination, pure and simple” and Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, termed it the triumph of “ignorance and fear.”

A few minutes later, the House voted 60-33, with six Democrats joining the GOP majority. Don Carlson of Vancouver was the only Republican opponent.

The only speech was a one-minute plea by Murray, who called it illogical to ban something that is already banned by state courts and by the “Defense of Marriage Act” passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton.

The governor vetoed the measure within minutes of receiving it. He could have taken five days but had agreed to get the issue off the table in a single day. In a mildly worded veto message, he said, “Not only is this legislation unnecessary, it serves no legitimate purpose.”

As soon as Locke’s lobbyist, Marty Brown, could carry the veto message to the House, lawmakers voted to override. The vote was 65-28. Six Democrats who had voted against the bill joined in the override, saying they wanted to head off a potentially divisive or even violent referendum campaign.

The Senate override vote came without a single word of debate. The vote was 34-11. The only vote switch was Snyder’s vote with the majority. It would have passed without his vote, but he said he had pledged to help with the override.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

ROLL CALL

The roll calls of area lawmakers by which the Washington Legislature approved HB1130, banning same-sex marriages.

House

Democrats against

Jeff Gombosky, Spokane.

Alex Wood, Spokane.

Republicans for

Brad Benson, Spokane; Gary Chandler, Moses Lake; Larry Crouse, Spokane; Cathy McMorris, Colville; Joyce Mulliken, Ephrata; Mark Schoesler, Ritzville; Larry Sheahan, Rosalia; Duane Sommers, Spokane; Mark Sterk, Veradale; Bob Sump, Republic.

Senate

Democrats against

Lisa Brown, Spokane.

Republicans for

Harold Hochstatter, Moses Lake; Bob McCaslin, Spokane; Bob Morton, Orient; Eugene Prince, Thornton; Jim West, Spokane.

House override

Democrats against

Jeff Gombosky, Spokane; Alex Wood, Spokane.

Republicans for

Brad Benson, Spokane; Gary Chandler, Moses Lake; Larry Crouse, Spokane; Cathy McMorris, Colville; Joyce Mulliken, Ephrata; Mark Schoesler, Ritzville; Larry Sheahan, Rosalia; Duane Sommers, Spokane; Mark Sterk, Veradale; Bob Sump, Republic.

Senate override

Democrats against

Lisa Brown, Spokane.

Republicans for

Harold Hochstatter, Moses Lake; Bob Morton, Orient; Eugene Prince, Thornton; Jim West, Spokane.

Republicans absent

Bob McCaslin, Spokane.

This sidebar appeared with the story: ROLL CALL The roll calls of area lawmakers by which the Washington Legislature approved HB1130, banning same-sex marriages.

House Democrats against Jeff Gombosky, Spokane. Alex Wood, Spokane. Republicans for Brad Benson, Spokane; Gary Chandler, Moses Lake; Larry Crouse, Spokane; Cathy McMorris, Colville; Joyce Mulliken, Ephrata; Mark Schoesler, Ritzville; Larry Sheahan, Rosalia; Duane Sommers, Spokane; Mark Sterk, Veradale; Bob Sump, Republic.

Senate Democrats against Lisa Brown, Spokane. Republicans for Harold Hochstatter, Moses Lake; Bob McCaslin, Spokane; Bob Morton, Orient; Eugene Prince, Thornton; Jim West, Spokane.

House override Democrats against Jeff Gombosky, Spokane; Alex Wood, Spokane.

Republicans for Brad Benson, Spokane; Gary Chandler, Moses Lake; Larry Crouse, Spokane; Cathy McMorris, Colville; Joyce Mulliken, Ephrata; Mark Schoesler, Ritzville; Larry Sheahan, Rosalia; Duane Sommers, Spokane; Mark Sterk, Veradale; Bob Sump, Republic.

Senate override Democrats against Lisa Brown, Spokane.

Republicans for Harold Hochstatter, Moses Lake; Bob Morton, Orient; Eugene Prince, Thornton; Jim West, Spokane.

Republicans absent Bob McCaslin, Spokane.

© Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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