The marriage equality bill in the Washington Senate is just one vote shy of the 25 needed for passage following an announcement from Democratic senator Jim Kastama, while businesses including Microsoft and Nike have also announced their support for the measure.
Kastama, a conservative Democrat from Puyallup, south of Seattle, announced his decision at a news conference Thursday afternoon. He said his constituents expected him to be "fiercely independent," although he believed some voters would never approve of his decision.
"Unlike some of my colleagues in liberal districts, I will not return home to cheers and handshakes," said Kastama, according to The Seattle Times. "I represent the district I was raised in. My wife and I purchased and live in the same house I grew up in and we have raised our family there. My district has known me my whole life and for 16 years has entrusted me to be a fiercely independent legislator. The people of my district are generous and decent, but I also know that there are childhood friends who will never forgive me for this vote."
The Kastama announcement brings the number of senate votes for the bill introduced last week to 24, including two Republicans. Five lawmakers including two Republicans remain undecided, and Gov. Christine Gregoire and advocates continue to lobby them. The governor discussed her efforts and her evolution on marriage equality in an interview with The Advocate.
Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage promised this week to spend $250,000 to defeat any Republicans who vote for the bill, a reprise of threats made in states including New York and Maryland. Fund-raising reports from New York show that the four Republican senators who voted for the bill raised significant amounts of money from gay rights supporters in the six months after the June vote.
Marriage equality in Washington also received a key nod from business giants connected to the state on Thursday. The Associated Press reports that Microsoft, Nike, and four other corporations sent a letter to Governor Gregoire expressing their support. Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said in a company blog post that the bill would "be good for our business and good for the state's economy."
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