OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state may soon become the seventh U.S. state to legalize gay marriage.
A same-sex marriage bill is expected to be introduced in the state legislature by the end of the week, and according to a tally by the Associated Press, more Washington lawmakers are firmly supporting gay marriage than opposing it, currently by a margin of 22-18 of the state’s Senators.
Four Democrats say they are considering whether to support it, including one who is leaning in favor. A pair of Republicans is among those supporting the proposal, and two first-term GOP members said they are still discussing the issue with constituents.
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who has for years led efforts to approve same-sex marriage, said that he’s “50 percent optimistic” it will pass. He noted that he saw a gay civil rights measure he spearheaded lose by one vote in 2005 before it passed by a single vote the following year.Associated Press, via The Seattle Times
Gay-marriage proponents think the necessary votes exist for passage in the state House; but the math is more complicated in the Senate.
GOP support is critical to passage in the Senate, and two Republican senators — Steve Litzow of Mercer Island and Cheryl Pflug of Maple Valley — said they are now supporting gay marriage, calling it a a matter of equality. Two first-term Republicans representing suburban districts — Sens. Joe Fain of Auburn and Andy Hill of Redmond — also left open the possibility of supporting the bill.
The increased support of same-sex marriage mirrors shifts in public opinion on the issue, and comes 15 years after Washington lawmakers overrode a governor’s veto to pass a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Since then, Washington state has expanded rights for gays and lesbians — the state’s initial domestic partnership law passed in 2007 and the final expansion of that law, the 2009 so-called “everything but marriage” law, was later upheld by voters.
Buoyed by the recent support from the Governor, Democratic supporters indicate a sense of urgency to get gay marriage through the legislature this year, in case Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna wins in November.
McKenna has said he is opposed to same-sex marriage.
Nine states — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington — provide same-sex couples with access to the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships.