Gov. Gary Locke, a staunch supporter of gay rights, is mulling whether to veto a renewed attempt to ban same-sex marriages - or let the ban become law to avoid a ballot-box showdown this fall.
Republicans say that if Locke vetoes the legislation for the second year in a row, they’ll put it on the November statewide ballot. They predict easy passage, a view shared by many in the gay-rights community.
The governor will announce his decision today amid conflicting advice from the gay community and fellow Democrats.
The GOP-controlled House plans to vote on Monday on the plan. The GOP-controlled Senate then plans to add its approval.
Democrat Locke is in a box.
He has a long record as a supporter of gays and lesbians and angrily vetoed a bill to ban same-sex marriages that Republicans sent him last year.
Sponsors couldn’t find enough votes to override the veto - that takes a two-thirds vote in both houses - or even the simple majority to place the issue on last fall’s ballot.
At the time, a handful of Republican moderates voted against referring the ban to the people because gay-rights groups were worried about the campaign generating violence.
But that argument was undercut when gay-rights activists themselves mounted a statewide initiative campaign to bar employment discrimination against homosexuals and there were no untoward scenes or violence. Voters rejected that measure 60 percent to 40 percent.
“That election reinforced my belief that the electorate is a civil lot and can take complex, emotional issues and decide them on their merits,” Senate Majority Leader Dan McDonald, R-Bellevue, said Thursday.
He said both houses have enough votes to pass the same-sex marriage ban. It’s up to Locke whether the ban goes into law now or after the November election, McDonald said.
Some Democrats reluctantly have asked Locke to allow the bill to become law rather than set up the gay community for a near-certain second ballot defeat.
House Minority Leader Marlin Appelwick, D-Seattle, said Locke appears inclined to go along with the request as the least objectionable of the two options.
Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the only openly gay member of the Legislature, said the gay community is deeply divided about what Locke should do. “There is no win in this situation,” he said.
But he said he comes down on the side of urging Locke to veto the measure, even if that means lawmakers send it to the state ballot.
“My opinion is that the governor should not change his strategy, which is to veto any discriminatory legislation,” Murray said.