Washington Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill

By Neal Broverman

Originally published on Advocate.com February 01 2012 10:35 PM ET

The state of Washington looks like it's on its way to becoming the seventh state to offer marriage equality, with the senate passing a bill 28-21.

The bill is almost certain to pass the house this week or early next, and governor Christine Gregoire has promised to sign the legislation,
meaning Washington will likely to become the first West Coast state
with marriage equality (California briefly legalized gay marriages in
2008 and is embroiled in a federal lawsuit against its voter-approved ban).

Though dozens applauded when the vote came down in Olympia, rightwing groups are already mobilizing a referendum effort to overturn it. Democrat Brian Hatfield, a crucial swing vote, endorsed same-sex marriage, but he also supported a November referendum that would allow voters to overturn the legislation.

"I believe that ultimately this question should be decided by the voters of Washington," Hatfield said, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  

At 6:45 p.m. P.T., the legislature was debating and passing amendments related to religious exemptions to the marriage equality bill.

After 7 p.m. P.T., Sen. Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) urged senators to not push for a voter referendum on the matter, saying it's wrong for the majority to vote on the rights of a minority. Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester) came out adamantly against same-sex marriage, saying it would alter the definition of same-sex marriage. "It's an issue I am compelled to fight," said Swecker, one of many older Republican men to rail against marriage equality.

Sen. Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma) urged support for same-sex marriage; she was visibly emotional and near tears when she described how her interracial marriage was illegal at one point. Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Island) was also emotional as he described how his gay father survived a lifetime of discrimination and still offered his son unconditional love and support. Cheryl Pflug, a Republican, urged passage of the bill. She was one of four Republicans to vote for marriage equality.