OLYMPIA, Wash. — In what may be a mostly symbolic move, one Washington state lawmaker thought Valentine’s Day an appropriate day to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the Evergreen State.
It was on Valentine’s Day in 1998 that lawmakers passed the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
But today, 13 years later, Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle) introduced Senate Bill 5793, which would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil marriage in Washington.
“We’ve made tremendous progress since 1998,” Murray said.
“Gay and lesbian families in Washington now enjoy the same state spousal rights that their married straight friends enjoy — except for the name ‘marriage’.
“The recognition that their loving, lifelong commitment is no different from the loving, lifelong commitment of straight couples is the final step to achieving full equality. I believe the Legislature and the public are both ready to take that final step.”
Rep. Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver), said he’ll introduce companion legislation in the House on Tuesday.
The bills may be more symbolic than realistic — this late in the session, they have just one week to get out of committee.
Murray concedes lawmakers are not likely to pass gay marriage this year. In 2010, he introduced a similar bill that never got a hearing.
Washington’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act was passed by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers over then-Gov. Gary Locke’s veto.
Since July 2007, Washington state has offered limited rights to registered domestic partners.
In 2009, domestic partnership rights were expanded when Governor Chris Gregoire signed SB 5688 — the “everything-but-marriage” bill.
The law survived an electoral challenge in the form of Referendum 71, and was approved by a vote of 53% to 47%.