Seattle mayor to recognize gay marriages
March 09 2004 12:00 AM ET
Seattle's mayor said Sunday that the city will begin recognizing the marriages of gay city employees who tie the knot elsewhere, although same-sex weddings will not be conducted in Seattle. Mayor Greg Nickels was to sign an executive order Monday giving same-sex spouses of city employees all the benefits of heterosexual spouses, including health insurance. He also planned to send a proposal to the city council that would extend that recognition to employees of city contractors and protect the rights of all same-sex married couples in Seattle.
"The basic message is one of fairness, and that is that people who are willing to make a commitment to one another, who love one another, and who are willing to take on the responsibilities of marriage ought to be able to, regardless of their gender," Nickels said.
Rick Forcier, head of the state Christian Coalition, called Nickels's plan "anarchy.... We have to have uniform laws. People cannot be recognized as married in one jurisdiction and not in another.... He's pretending to recognize counterfeit licenses that will have no value."
Seattle has offered domestic-partner benefits to its employees since 1989, but the process requires workers to fill out extensive paperwork. Under the new order, married same-sex couples will be able to skip that process, officials said.
Nickels said he cannot follow the lead of mayors in San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., by allowing same-sex weddings because counties, not cities, have the authority to issue marriage licenses in Washington State, which is one of 39 states that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
The ordinance Nickels was to send to the city council on Monday defines "spouse" as a husband or wife in a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage. If approved, the ordinance would protect gay married couples from discrimination in employment, housing, parks, and other city facilities. It also would require contractors doing business with the city to recognize gay marriages among their own employees.
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