Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Washington lawmakers approved a bill that would grant same-sex couples the right to marry, lacking only the governor’s signature for the state to become the seventh in the U.S. to make the practice legal.
The state House of Representatives voted 55-43 today in favor of the legislation, which has the support of Governor Christine Gregoire, a 64-year-old Democrat.
“Thousands of same-sex couples in our state deserve the respect and protection from our government that only marriage can convey, and our children deserve to grow up in a state that treats their family with equal dignity,” state Representative Jamie Pedersen, a gay Seattle Democrat, said ahead of the vote. The Senate passed the measure Feb. 1.
If Gregoire signs the bill, Washington will join New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex weddings. The vote follows a decision yesterday by a federal appeals court in San Francisco that California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage to be only between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional.
“Marriage is about life,” Representative Jay Rodne, a Republican from North Bend, said during debate on the bill. “It’s about joining that man and that woman as husband and wife and mother and father, linking them with their natural-born children.”
The bill severs the cultural, historical and legal underpinnings of marriage, harming families and children, Rodne said.
The law, which would take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session on March 8, may face a repeal campaign by opponents that would put it on hold pending a referendum, said Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for Gregoire. To get on the November ballot, petitions would have to be signed by more than 120,000 registered voters, according to Brian Zylstra, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed.
“I like our chances,” Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington in Lynnwood, which opposes what it says is a redefinition of marriage and will help gather signatures, said in a telephone interview.
“Most people are not immersed in the politics of this issue,” he said. “When the question is asked, ‘What is marriage?,’ most people understand that it’s a relationship between a man and woman.”
Zach Silk, campaign manager of Seattle-based Washington United for Marriage, which supports making same-sex marriage legal, said he anticipates overcoming the challenge.
“We feel like we have the coalition that can take them on and win this at the ballot box in November,” Silk said today in a telephone interview. “We believe the majority of Washingtonians are with us.”
The legislation allows religious denominations to decide who qualifies for their wedding ceremonies and which marriages to recognize.
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