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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

WA Lege Day 22: House panel OKs gay marriage bill

OLYMPIA -- By a single vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to allow same-sex marriage in Washington, turning down a pair of amendments by a Spokane Valley legislator.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, argued that all business owners with a religious objection to same-sex marriage should be given protection from any civil suit for refusing to participate. That would be in keeping with the state constitution's guarantee of "absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment," he said.

Without it, "private businesses will be subjected to massive new lawsuits," Shea said.

But Judiciary Committee Chairman Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said such concerns were raised years ago when the state first began considering anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and didn't materialize: "We don't have any evidence of any abuse."

Shea also proposed changing the bill to require couples getting married be residents of the state for at least six months. He said he was open to a lower time limit, but one should be placed in the law because "we don't want people abusing our marriage laws here in the state." The provision would cover all marriages, not just those involving same-sex couples.

But Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood, said residency requirements "don't work in ther real world." It would put restrictions on all couples in which one is from out of state, and members of the military "would have a very difficult time meeting that requirement," she said.

The committee also rejected an effort to place the law on the November ballot through a referendum.

After all three amendments were rejected on voice votes, the bill itself passed 7-6 on a party-line vote.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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