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Ed Murray staying a senator until year’s end

OLYMPIA — Ed Murray will keep two titles — state senator and mayor-elect — through the end of the year in case he has to return to the state capital for a special session on transportation.

In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, Murray said he will resign his Senate seat on Dec. 31. That will give Democrats in his district the time to name a replacement before the regular session of the Legislature starts in January.

Murray, who won the Seattle mayor's race this month, had planned to resign before then, “but with the prospect of an upcoming vote on transportation, he did not want to leave the 43rd District without representation,” Aaron Wasser, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic Caucus, said in a press release.

Inslee has said he might call a special session — which would be this year's fourth — if legislators can reach agreement on a package of transportation construction and maintenance projects accompanied by increases in the gasoline tax and some vehicle fees. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, which includes all Republicans and two Democrats, reportedly is putting the finishing touches on a $8.7 billion package that would raise gas taxes by 11.5 cents over three years. Legislators will test the waters for such a plan later this week during committee hearings.

Under state law, Democratic precinct officers within Murray's legislative district will nominate up to three possible replacements, and the final choice will be made by the King County Council. The person selected will serve in the regular session and any special sessions in 2014, and run for election next November.

Murray steps down as Senate Dem leader

OLYMPIA — Sen. and Seattle mayor-elect Ed Murray said he's dropping one of  his titles, that of Senate Democratic leader.

Murray said he was relinquishing that post and Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, was stepping in as interim leader for the special session. Murray will remain in the state Senate through the session, and announce a resignation date after that with enough time for a replacement to be selected before the regular session starts in January.

Which politics are more progressive: Seattle or Spokane

One footnote from last week's primary elections, prompted by an item by colleague Jim Brunner of The Seattle Times:

Seattle's mayoral primary results — State Sen. Ed Murray and incumbent Mike McGinn advance from the Top 2 to the general election — mean Seattle will extend its streak of 85 years without a woman at the helm of its City Hall. The one, and only, female mayor of Seattle was Bertha Landes, elected to a single two-year term in 1926. Since then, the mayor's post has been a guy's only club, and except for Norm Rice from 1989-1997, all white guys.

This reminds Spin Control of many conversations over the years about how Seattle politics are so much more progressive and forward-looking than Spokane politics. There are significant differences in policies and partisan leanings, as well as government structures between the two cities. In fact, for half of the 20th Century, Spokane voters didn't even elect their mayor, they elected a five-member commission which picked the mayor from among its ranks. That was later replaced by what some called the weak-mayor system in which citizens elected the mayor, whose main job other than sticking a shovel in the dirt at construction openings or cutting ribbons at their completions was to run the City Council; a full-time city manager ran government day-to-day.

But during the period in which Spokane elected a major, strong or otherwise, it had three women in the job: Vicki McNeill, Sheri Barnard and Mary Verner. (It also elected an African-American mayor, Jim Chase, eight years before Rice, but that's kind of rubbing it in.)

All three were very different politically. None campaigned primarily on being a woman or won because of, or in spite of, gender. In McNeill's case, she ran against another woman, Margaret Leonard. Seattle has never had a general election mayoral race between two women.

Spin Control would never use the gender diversity of a city's chief executive as proof of much of anything. But the next time a Seattle resident gets too over the top about how forward thinking his or her city is, remind them that Spokane has had three times as many female mayors, who held the office six times as long as Seattle. It might keep them quiet for a minute or two.

Court ruling expands rights for WA same-sex couples

OLYMPIA – Supporters of Washington’s same-sex marriage law called Wednesday’s Supreme Court decisions a major step forward for gay and lesbian couples, but warned it’s not the end of the road. There are more than 1,000 federal rules and regulations that will have to be studied, and likely more court battles ahead.

“We’re on a long road and today was a Mach 1 step forward,” Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said. “It doesn’t mean we’re at the endpoint.”

When the Legislature approved a same-sex marriage law last spring and voters affirmed it in the November elections,  that invalided the state’s version of the Defense of Marriage Act. But same-sex couples weren’t eligible for some federal benefits, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the bill’s prime sponsor, said. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog

Legislature honors Booth Gardner

Cadet honor guard carries the state flag to the Senate rostrum during joint session to honor Gardner.

OLYMPIA – With his family in the gallery and flags outside lowered to half-staff, Booth Gardner was eulogized Friday in the Senate chamber where he once served, as a champion of children, education and personal choice . . .

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Debate over tax super-majority continues

 

OLYMPIA – A proposed constitutional amendment gave a Senate panel another chance to argue whether democracy is helped or hurt by requiring legislative super-majorities to approve tax increases.

Definitely helped, Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, the sponsor of the amendment, told the Ways and Means Committee. The requirement has been approved five times by voters through the initiative process, she noted, including last year. Spokane voters recently changed their charter to require a super-majority from their city council on taxes.

“It’s time for the people in the Legislature to match the people of the state,” Roach said, and began listing approval percentages for committee members.

Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Ed Murray, both Seattle Democrats, were quick to raise their hands to indicate their districts rejected that initative.

Definitely hurt, said Nick Federici of Our Economic Future Coalition, an umbrella group for progressive and liberal organizations. If it takes a two-thirds majority to pass a tax increase, that means a one-third minority can block one, he said.. . 

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WA Lege Day 23: Fight ahead over immigration?

OLYMPIA — Add immigration to the list of issues that could provoke a heated argument in this year's Legislature. Two mutually exclusive proposals involving undocumented students in the state's colleges will be in the Senate.

Young adults who came to the United States with their parents as young children and were raised and educated in this country would be eligible for some state college aid under a proposal announced Tuesday by Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.

What's being dubbed the Washington State DREAM Act would open up the State Need Grant and College Bound Scholarship programs to high school students who are undocument residents. Those programs already have long waiting lines; the State Need Grant last year had 32,000 applicants who couldn't get aid because the program ran out of money. . . 

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WA Lege Day 12: Murray floats capital gains tax

OLYMPIA — The Senate's top Democrat will propose asking Washington voters to approve a capital gains tax on the wealthy to help pay for better schools and more affordable college.Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray of Seattle said this morning he will introduce a bill next week for a 5 percent excise tax on capital gains that would hit an estimated 3 percent of the state's population. It's an attempt to get what he called a “grand bargain” on education that would join reforms to the schools and provide the money to pay for it.

But the Republican-dominated coalition that controls the Senate has already denounced Democrats for the range of tax proposals they've introduced, including an income tax, which has been rejected repeatedly by voters.
“There's a steady flow of tax ideas coming out,” Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said.
This despite the fact that Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has said he would veto new taxes if they come to him, Schoesler added.. .
 
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Flags to half-staff for Connecticut victims

OLYMPIA — As state leaders weigh in with shock, sadness and support for the families of the Connecticut shooting victims, Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered state flags lowered to half-staff through Tuesday.

Gregoire called the shootings in Newtown, Conn., “incomprehensible” adding “all Washingtonians stand with me in expressing our profound sorrow and grief.”

Governor-elect Jay Inslee called it “an incredibly dark day for our nation” and a day of mourning. “But in the days to come I will be listening to all in our community with ideas for how we can prevent such violence.”

Spokane Mayor David Condon described the community as “heartbroken” but said the city and school district have a commitment to student safety. “The City of Spokane and Spokane Public Schools work closely together in many ways to help ensure that our kids are safe at school and within our community.”

Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, the Senate Democratic leader, called it a “horrendous, senseless shooting” but the kind of violent action that is becoming too frequent. “I believe we are long overdue to have the politically difficult discussion of how we prevent them.”

Murray new Senate majority leader

OLYMPIA — Seattle Sen. Ed Murray, who spearheaded the fight for same-sex marriage and ran the Senate's budget writing committee this year, will move up to leading the Democrats in that chamber next year.

Murray was elected Senate majority leader Tuesday by the members of the Democratic caucus. There was no other candidate for the job, and he was elected by acclimation, a statement from the caucus said. He replaces Sen. Lisa Brown of Spokane, who retires at the end of this year.

Just how big of a majority Murray will lead remains in doubt. Early in the day Tuesday, Democrats had a 27-22 edge, counting a race in Vancouver's 17th District in which Democrat Tim Probst led incumbent Republican Don Benton by 16 votes. But Benton pulled ahead in Tuesday afternoon's count by 65 votes, and if that holds, the Democratic lead would be down to 26-23.

Two of the Senate's more conservative Democrats, Tim Sheldon and Rodney Tom, have voted with Republicans in the past on fiscal and budget issues. They have said they'd like some bipartisan arrangement where the parties would share the power of leadership and committee positions, and if Benton wins, their two votes could be decisive if all 23 Republicans went along.

Early last year, Murray took the lead on crafting and advocating for a law that would allow. same-sex couples to marry, rather than settling for domestic partnerships. He became the prime sponsor of the bill that eventually passed both houses, was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and was challenged by opponents who placed it on the ballot as Referendum 74. That measure passed in last week's election.

Murray is the first openly gay cucus leader in state history and the only openly gay state Senate leader currently serving in the nation, Senate Democratic staffers said.

As chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee for the last two years, Murray struggled with a budget that faced constant problems of not having enough expected revenue to meet scheduled costs. The 2011-13,  biennial budget received bipartisan support in the Senate. 

Obama gay marriage support fuels state politicians

OLYMPIA — In a state that recently went through a legislative battle over same-sex marriage and faces a potential ballot fight over the issue, President Barack Obama's comments supporting gay marriage drew quick response.

He'll likely hear some of it in person Thursday, when he stops by for a pair of re-election campaign fundraisers.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who offered similar reasoning late last year for her switch in support of gay marriage, praised Obama for a “courageous and heartfelt act.”

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, an openly gay legislator and sponsor of the bill that could ultimately allow Washington state to recognize same-sex marriages, thanked Obama for “his courage in taking a strong position in support of equality for all Americans.”

But the National Organization for Marriage, a national group helping to gather signatures to place Washington's same-sex marriage law on the ballot and calling for a boycott of Starbuck's for its support of the legislation, predicted Obama's comments would cost him re-election. Although Obama said he personallly supports gay marriage but believes states should decide the issue, “that is completely disingenuous,” NOM President Brian Brown said.

In an interview with ABC, Obama said he had hoped that civil unions for same-sex couples would be enough, but that hasn't proved true. He also mentioned that his daughters have friends whose parents are same-sex couples and whom they wouldn't expect to be treated differently, and that helped prompt his change in thinking.

Within hours, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, as chairwoman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, sent out an e-mail to party supporters, asking them to sign an on-line petition to “stand with President Obama in support of marriage equality.”

That closely parallels Gregoire's comments in December, when she called for the change in state law and said her opinion had also evolved from supporting civil unions to marriage for same-sex couples. At that time, she mentioned the her views had evolved from talking with her daughters, whose generation is much more accepting of same-sex unions, and that children who are being raised by two parents of the same sex deserve to have their families recognized the same way as their classmates in more traditional families.

Gregoire and Obama may have a chance to discuss the issue Thursday. The president will make a campaign stop in Seattle, with a fundraiser at the Paramont Theater in downtown; Gregoire will be there, her office said.

The comments could also cause a ripple into the governor's race, which could share the ballot with a referendum seeking to block the same-sex marriage law that is on the books but currently on  hold. The leading Democratic candidate, former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, has said  he supports the new law. The leading Republican candidate, Attorney General Rob McKenna, has said he supports civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples, adding his stance on the issue was essentially the same as Obama's. Until today, that description was accurate, but it is now obsolete.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are gathering signatures on Referendum 74, which would give voters the final say on whether the law takes effect. A representative of Preserve Marriage Washington, the main sponsor of the referendum, told the Associated Press Wednesday they had about 70,000 of the more than 120,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the November ballot.

Murray, Inslee camp slam McKenna over budget

OLYMPIA — A week after the Legislature's overtime session wrapped up, Democrats accused GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna of delaying the final compromise by bringing politics into the process.

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, joined members of the campaign for Democratic governor hopeful Jay Inslee to accuse McKenna of using the budget stalemate “for political purposes” to push reform proposals.

A spokesman for the McKenna campaign called the accusations “nonsensical.” McKenna did talk about budget principles he would follow as governor, but “didn't try to inject himself into day-to-day negotiations,” Charles McCray III said.

Murray and the Inslee campaign were merely being “protectors of the status quo,” McCray said. “It's the status quo mentality in Olympia that is the reason it took so long.”

McKenna did support a maneuver by all 22 Republicans and three breakaway Democrats late in the regular session that pushed through an alternative budget. Murray questioned how McKenna, who has called for increased spending on education, could support a budget that cut public schools and colleges.

McKenna later said he “wasn't thrilled” with the education cuts in that alternative budget, which later was revised in the House. At a campaign press conference during the third week of the special session, he said if he'd been involved in discussions over that alternative Senate budget “I would've gone to them and said 'Let's not make the education cuts.'”

At that press conference, McKenna accused Democratic leaders in general, and House Speaker Frank Chopp in particular, of holding up negotiations by refusing to allow votes on reforms.

The partisan lines over the reforms aren't so clear-cut. The original proposal on a four-year balanced budget, a constitutional amendment, came from a Senate Democrat, one of the three who joined Republicans on the budget vote.

Murray said that's a stricter rule than any state in the union has, and “forces you to predict something in the future that is almost unpredictable.” The negotiated settlement over the budget and reforms is a statutory requirement, with some exceptions, for a four-year budget, which would be easier to amend by future Legislatures.

“It took us to bring some common sense to it,” Murray said.

On his website, McKenna details a series of ideas to reform the budget process he would push as governor. But he doesn't mention balancing the budget for four years, rather than the current two years. At his press conference earlier this month, he said he supports a four-year balanced budget but “I don't know if it requires a constitutional amendment.”

Special Session: Lunchtime drama in Senate

OLYMPIA — A bit of drama this afternoon before the Senate broke for lunch, with plans by Democrats to go “at ease” in the afternoon while the Ways and Means Committee holds a hearing on the budget and reform bills connected to it…and possibly come back for votes in the evening or Saturday.

After the motion to go at ease, Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, made a motion to recess until Monday. The difference: under the latter, no votes could be taken through the weekend.

Several Republicans had already headed home for the holiday weekend, and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, is recovering from surgery. Some Republicans were concerned about orders to return to the Senate on Saturday or Sunday to vote on the budget, and with Hewitt missing, even if they all made it back they could face a 24-24 vote, with Democrats holding most of their members but the three breakaway Ds from an early budget vote casting their lot again with the Republicans.

In case of a 24-24 tie, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a Democrat, would cast the deciding vote.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown argued passionately against recess. The bills that Republicans had been pushing for could get through the committee and be available for a vote Friday or Saturday, she said. If the Legislature has a chance of getting done by Tuesday, they'll need to move that legislation to the House as quickly as possible.

“This is not about the illness of one member. This is about getting the business of the state done,” Brown, D-Spokane, said. “If necessary, I will personally take Sen. Hewitt's vote on that bill.”

There's no problem with holding the hearing, Schoesler said. But the threat of being called back on Saturday or Sunday is a problem with some members already home with their families.

“The threat of a call of the house with a holy holiday coming is a very serious issue,” he said.

Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, said her 94-year-old mother was being baptized as a Catholic on Saturday in Yakima, and “I hope to heck we get to go tomorrow.”  Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said one of her relatives was also being baptized on Saturday. (Note: Catholics traditionally baptize new adult members during their Easter Vigil service.)

Not to be out religious-ed, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said the Democrats two Jewish members had agreed to stay as late as necessary Friday night, which is the beginning of Passover, “willing to forego their very holy day in order to get the business of the state done.”

In the end, Owen ruled that the motion to go in recess came first, took precedence, and called for a vote on that. It passed. Unknown yet whether there will be votes late into the evening Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

A historic day, in many ways, for same-sex marriage issue

Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the same-sex marriage bill.

OLYMPIA — Within hours of Gov. Chris Gregoire signing a historic bill to allow same-sex couples to marry in Washington, opponents filed a referendum that would give voters a chance to endorse or reject it in November.

A Republican presidential candidate visiting the Capitol said the nation should move forward with a constitutional amendment that would ban same sex marriage.

To read the rest of this story, go inside the blog.

Ed Murray: ‘No doubt’ same-sex bill will go to ballot

Sen. Ed Murray, left, and his partner Michael Shiosaki discuss the same-sex marriage bill.

OLYMPIA — The state Senate will be debating the same-sex marriage bill in front of a full gallery and possibly late into the evening.

But it has the 25 votes needed to pass SB 6239, its prime sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said.

The galleries have been filling since late afternoon, and at least a half dozen amendments will be considered before the final vote. One of those amendments will be to put the measure to a vote, but Murray said he was confident that amendment will fail.

The bill could pass the House and be on Gov. Gregoire's desk by the middle of next week, he said.

Despite the fact that supporters can defeat any attempt at a referendum clause, Murray said he had “no doubt” opponents will gather the signatures to suspend the law until it goes to the voters in November.

Appearing before the debate at a press conference with his partner Michael Shiosaki, Murray said Wednesday is “a historic day for gay and lesbian couples in Washington state.”

When they met some 21 years ago, Shiosaki said they “never would've imagined this day would be here.

Although Washington has a domestic partnership law that gives same-sex couples many of the legal rights as a married couple, marriage is special, he added.


“This is the way society says you're a family,” Murray said.

Revenue outlook a little worse; Budget reserve outlook even more so

OLYMPIA – The state’s most likely revenue outlook for the next two years dropped slightly Wednesday as the state’s chief economist revised his projections down about $183 million because of what he calls a “soft patch” in the recovery.

The state should collect $31.603 billion in its general fund to spend on a wide array of programs, services and salaries, Arun Raha said, or about sixth-tenths of 1 percent less than the revenue projected in March…

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Spec Sess Day 28: Budget deal done

Rep. Ross Hunter tells reporters Monday there's a deal on the operating budget, but it won't be released until Tuesday.

OLYMPIA — Budget negotiators have reached deal on the 2011-13 operating budget, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle confirmed late this morning.

“The good news is we have a budget. The bad news is it's a painful budget with some deep cuts,” Murray said.

Don't ask what's in it yet. The contents will be released to legislators Tuesdsay morning, tentatively at 9 a.m., and to the public about an hour later. In the meantime, it has to go to the printer.

“I'm not going to discuss details,” Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, repeated a half-dozen times as reporters questioned him in the House wings.

Negotiators reached an agreement and shook hands about 11 p.m. Sunday. Staff is going over the details to make sure what negotiators agreed to is what they thought they agreed to. “There will not be any big issues that block us from solving it,” Hunter said.

Negotiators had been meeting every evening until 10 or 11 p.m., he said. “There were a couple of moments when theings were a little testy,” he said.

Asked whether the budget will get strong support from both parties in both houses, Hunter said: “It will get at least 76 votes.” Which is to say, at least 50 votes in the House, 25 in the Senate and the governor's signature.

WA Lege Day 36: Gay marriage bill proposed

OLYMPIA — In what may be a nod to Valentine's Day, two legislators announced they are introducing bills  to legalize gay marriage in Washington state.

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, introduced SB 5793 in the Senate. Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancover, said he'll drop the companion legislation in the House on Tuesday. It would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed over then-Gov. Gary Locke's veto in 1998.

“We've made tremendous progress since 1998,” Murray said. “Gay and lesbian families in Washington now enjoy the same state spousal rights that their married straight friends enjoy – except for the name ‘marriage’. The recognition that their loving, lifelong commitment is no different from the loving, lifelong commitment of straight couples is the final step to achieving full equality. I believe the Legislature and the public are both ready to take that final step.”

The bill covers civil marriage laws; religious institutions would be free to determine whether they would perform services for same-sex couples.

It also keeps the option of domestic partnerships, which are currently in the law.

The bills may be more symbolic than realistic. This late in the session, they have just one week  to get out of committee or be killed by the first cut-off date, Feb. 21.

Thumbs down, thumbs up on Gregoire budget

OLYMPIA — Reaction to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget was swift Wednesday as some of her normal alliles is social service groups and progressive circles denounced it while Republicans gave it qualified favorable reviews.

Fellow Democrats tried to praise her for the effort of compiling a budget that cut $4.6 billion over two years with committing to any of it.

State workers represented by Service Employees International Union, who care for seniors and the developmentally disabled, gathered outside the governor’s office to protest the cuts to key social service programs. They clustered around the exits to the office with empty wheel chairs in which they placed signs predicting the kinds of injuries and problems patients could suffer because of the cuts.

Karen Washington, who works for Chesterfield Services home care in Spokane, said workers who are already struggling to make ends meet, will have their wages and benefits cut, too. In the end, many patients who are able to remain in their homes or with family because of state services will wind up in more expensive settings like nursing homes and hospitals because of the cuts, she said.

Asking the sick and disabled to shoulder so much of the state’s budget problems “is not only not fair, it’s immoral,” Washington said.

Read more reaction inside the blog.


 

Trying to fine-tune the wording, same-sex marriage foes file court challenge…

People trying to overturn a new law giving expanded rights to same-sex domestic partners have filed an 11th-hour appeal of the proposed ballot language.

The move sets their own signature-gathering effort back at least a week, but seems aimed at boosting their odds by trying to make voters see domestic partnerships as virtually identical to marriage.

Shortly before the 5 p.m. deadline today, Arlington’s Larry Stickney filed an appeal with the Thurston County Superior Court. He wants a judge to re-word the description and ballot summary of Referendum 71.

Here’s the summary language originally proposed by the Attorney General’s office (the bold-facing is mine, to highlight the differences):

Same-sex couples, or any couple that includes one person age sixty-two or older, may register as a domestic partnership with the state.  Registered domestic partnerships are not marriages, and marriage is prohibited except between one man and one woman.  This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of registered domestic partners and their families to include all rights, responsibilities, and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples and their families.

Here’s what Stickney proposes instead:

This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities and obligations of registered domestic partners to be equal to the rights, responsibilities and obligations granted by or imposed by state law on married couples, except that domestic partnerships will not be called marriages.

Similarly, here’s the original description wording proposed by the AG:

“Concise Description: This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.”

And here’s how Stickney would like it to read:

“Concise Statement: This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities and obligations of state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partnerships, to be equal to the rights, responsibilities and obligations of married couples, except that domestic partnerships will not be called marriages.

The point, clearly, is to suggest that domestic partnerships are now essentially the same thing as marriage. That’s what critics of the new law have been saying — and proponents have been denying — for months. In fact, state Sen. Ed Murray, one of several openly gay lawmakers and the sponsor of the bill, has repeatedly called the legislation the “everything but marriage” bill.

According to Brian Zylstra, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, the case has been assigned to Judge Thomas McPhee, but no date’s yet been set. (Case number: 09-2-01278-1)

The court typically handles such cases as part of its Friday motion calendar, meaning that the earliest date would be May 29. The Secretary of State’s office says that June 5 or June 12 is probably more likely. 

If it’s the latter date, Stickney and affiliated church groups and social conservatives would have just six weeks to print and circulate petitions. To get R-71 on the November ballot for a statewide vote, they need at least 120,577 voter signatures by July 25th.

In wake of today’s court ruling, Washingtonians on both sides of the same-sex marriage divide try to gauge lessons from California…

California’s supreme court has upheld Proposition 8, the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The ruling, however, allows thousands of same-sex marriages performed prior to the ban.

California’s experience has been closely watched in Washington, where gay marriage opponents have filed a referendum to undo a state law granting domestic partners most of the rights and responsibilities of spouses.

In interviews, foes of same-sex marriage cite Prop. 8 as evidence that voters, if given the chance, will reject it. (In Washington, the picture’s a little less clear, since the law targeted by the referendum stops short of full marriage.)

On the other side of the issue, some gay marriage proponents see California as an argument for a more incremental approach to winning the right to marry.

“If the brief back-and-forth history of marriage equality in California teaches us anything, it’s that progress must occur with public involvement and input, one step at a time,” said Washington state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, one of several openly gay lawmakers in Olympia.

“…In Washington, we remain dedicated to continuing our conversation with the public and steadily building upon our domestic partnership progress,” he said. “I’m confident that Washington state will soon be ready to accept — once and for all — full marriage equality for all.”

The road to same-sex marriage: Both sides weigh in….

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced bills to broaden the rights of couples who register with the state as domestic partners. So far, nearly 5,000 couples have signed up for the registry. Many are same-sex partners; others are heterosexual senior citizens. (The latter group could marry, but doing so would mean that some widows and widowers would lose pension benefits or other rights linked to a deceased spouse.)

Two years ago, lawmakers approved the registry and granted the partners rudimentary rights, such as being able to visit each other in the hospital and make health care decisions for each other.

Last year, those rights and responsibilities were expanded to cover property rights and set up a formal process for dissolving the partnerships.

This year’s legislation — a first draft was nearly 2,000 pages long — is an attempt to give those couples virtually all the rights and responsibilities of married couples in Washington. It covers about 300 things, including pension benefits, estate taxes and things as mundane as automatically transferring a business license to the surviving family member.

For the purposes of this chapter, the terms spouse, marriage, marital, husband, wife, widow, widower, next of kin, and family shall be interpreted as applying equally to state registered domestic partnerships…

the bill says repeatedly. The couples would not, however, be married. Two other bills would allow same sex marriage, but neither of those is expected to pass this year.

“It is not marriage, but it is everything that heterosexual families have currently,” said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.

Marriage, he and other proponents say, remains the goal.

“What we know