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Washington state Senate approves marriage equality bill

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
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OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state Senate on Wednesday evening voted 28-21 in favor of SB 6239, a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.

The bill, garnering three more votes than the required 25, passed with bipartisan support of 24 Democrats and four Republicans.

The bill now moves to the House, where it already has enough support to pass.

Lacey All, Chairperson of Washington United for Marriage, a broad statewide coalition of organizations, congregations, unions and business associations working to advance marriage equality in Washington state, released the following statement within minutes of the Senate adjournment for the evening:

“We thank Majority Leader Brown, Sen. Murray and the bipartisan coalition of senators who stood with us today in the name of equality. ”

The overwhelming support we’re seeing from businesses, labor, faith communities and people all across the state is a testament to the momentum of this movement and sensibilities of Washingtonians.

“Volunteers from every part of the state have contributed thousands of hours of their time to make today possible, and we thank them for their commitment to this issue.”

Senate Republicans introduced a series of amendments, which passed, that would ensure protections for religious bodies, churches, and institutions — including affiliated child adoption and fostering agencies — that would protect them from charges of bias or discrimination for refusing to sanctify, solemnise, or otherwise embrace same sex marriage.

An amendment to put the legislation on the November ballot was defeated after Sen. Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) reminded colleagues that the purpose of representational democracy was to prevent minorities’ civil liberties being infringed and voted on by the majority.

Following the vote, amid cheering Senators, a motion was made without objection to to immediately advance the bill to the state’s House of Represenatives for its consideration — a vote in the House could occur as early as next week, and supporters are confident there are enough votes for passage.

Once the state House has approved the legislation, Gov. Chris Gregoire would have five business days to sign it into law, which she has indicated she will do.

Gay and lesbian couples would then be able to wed beginning in June, unless opponents follow through on their threat to seek a ballot referendum.

A referendum cannot be filed until after the bill is passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gregoire — opponents would need 120,577 signatures by June 6.

Washington has had a domestic partnership law since 2007 and an “everything but marriage” expansion of the domestic partnership law since 2009.

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