OLYMPIA – With votes to spare, the state Senate passed a bill to allow same-sex couples to marry in Washington, sending it to the House of Representatives, where it also has enough votes to pass.
The House is expected to take up the measure next week.
Senators passionately but respectfully debated a bill Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, called “as contentious as any this body has considered” and then passed it on a 28-21 vote. A full gallery erupted after the vote.
Those who oppose it should not be accused of bigotry, Murray said. Those who support it should not be accused of religious intolerance.
“This is a difficult personal issue because it is about what is closest to us … family,” he said. “Marriage is how society says you are a family.”
It was a largely partisan vote: Four Republicans voted yes; three Democrats voted no.
During the debate, senators offered deeply personal reasons for their votes for or against.
Murray spoke of his desire to marry his partner of some 21 years, Spokane Valley native Michael Shiosaki, so they could have what Shiosaki’s parents, Fred and Lily, have. Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, described growing up with a father who was gay and whose abilities to be a parent were questioned by society.
“I’m proud to stand on the right side of history,” Ranker said. “And I’m proud of my father.”
Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said he wasn’t judging anyone but had to vote no because of his religious belief: “I am no better than anyone else and I need the forgiveness of my savior every day. But I have to do what is right. And for me doing the right thing is voting against the bill.”
Supporters adopted some amendments offered by opponents to address concerns that the bill didn’t go far enough to protect churches and religious-based organizations that believe marriage is strictly between a man and a woman. No clergy would have to perform a same-sex marriage and no church would be forced to allow its facility to be used for one.
Faith-based adoption and foster agencies would not be forced to place children in the homes of same-sex couples under amendments added to the bill. Supporters drew the line at amendments that would have allowed any business to refuse to provide goods or services to a same-sex wedding because of religious objections.
Also rejected was an amendment with a referendum clause, to place the bill directly on the November ballot.
“If ever there was an issue of what you send to the voters, this is it,” Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said. “It’s more basic than our Constitution; it’s a basic unit of society.”
But Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said the Legislature should reject the concept that “separate is equal” and pass the bill without a referendum clause: “The voters do have the ultimate say … when they elect us and send us here to make these decisions.”
Voters also have the right to collect signatures and put any bill the Legislature passes on the ballot, she added. Supporters and opponents both expect a referendum effort will begin almost as soon as the bill is signed.