Gay marriage bill a go in Washington state: 25th vote comes through
The Washington state Legislature appears to have all the votes it needs to approve a gay marriage bill.
After the first public hearing on the contentious issue, held Monday in Olympia, Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen announced that she would support the measure, becoming the 25th necessary vote to ensure passage of the same-sex marriage bill.
Haugen's statement stressed her "very strong" Christian beliefs. "I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.
“But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed."
Haugen said she was aware the announcement made her the "so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage. That’s neither here nor there. If I were the first or the seventh or the 28th vote, my position would not be any different."
The crowd at Monday's hearing overflowed the small Senate committee hearing room, according to the Associated Press, with opponents of gay marriage showing their position with buttons that said "Marriage. One Man. One Woman."
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, sponsor of Senate Bill 6239, testified before the Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee. He was accompanied by his longtime partner, Michael Shiosaki, the AP reported, and said he'd "waited 17 years to ask this body to consider marriage equality for gay and lesbian families."
The gay lawmaker from Seattle noted that the issue was "emotional and divisive. It touches what each of us holds most dear, our families."
Calls to the senator following Monday's hearing were not immediately returned.
Earlier this month, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that she would introduce gay marriage legislation, saying: "It's time, it's the right thing to do."
As The Times reported, activists for and against the issue then vowed to turn Washington state into a battleground for the fight.
Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, told Bloomberg News at the time that marriage was not about "affirming relationships" but about creating "the greatest likelihood that children will be raised by their mother and father."
Same-sex marriage is already legal in six states -- New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- and the District of Columbia.
-- Amy Hubbard
Photo: People crowd around a TV monitor in the Capitol rotunda on Monday in Olympia, Wash., to listen to testimony during a state Senate committee hearing on proposed legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state. Visitors unable to get into the main hearing room packed several different overflow areas at the Capitol. Credit: Ted S. Warren / Associated Press