Washington Senate's Newly Introduced Marriage Equality Bill Could Face Ballot Opposition

Posted by Daniel Villarreal
January 13, 2012 5:15 PM |

Today, the Washington state senate filed a bill that would make The Evergreen State the seventh in the union to legalize marriage equality. But even though the bill may pass the Senate and eventually be signed into law, anti-LGBT opponents may still try and overturn it at the November ballot.

gregoire.pngThe senate bill (supported by Democratic state Gov. Christine Gregoire) has 23 sponsors including Republican Sens. Steve Litzow and Cheryl Pflug.

However, the bill does not yet have the votes needed to pass the senate—although Democratic Sens. Brian Hatfield, Jim Kastama and Paull Shin have all hinted that they might support it, despite their previous votes opposing rights for LGBT couples.

An October poll found that 55 percent of the state's independent and moderate voters support marriage equality. Catholics for Equality have also pointed out that Gregoire is the third Catholic governor in the U.S. to support marriage equality -- right alongside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) -- and that recent polls show 63 to 71 percent of American Catholics supporting marriage for same-sex couples.

Though the proposed legislation would not force religious organizations to marry or recognize same-sex unions, anti-equality advocate Attorney Stephen Pidgeon has filed an initiative opposing the bill -- even as five of the state's most vocal leaders opposing marriage equality dropped out of an upcoming public debate on the issue.

State Sen. Ed Murray has cautioned voters that even if the bill passes in the legislature, it may still come up for a vote if Pidgeon and his ilk collect 241,153 voter signatures by July 6th.

"The rightwing will put it on the ballot," Murray told The Stranger. "We saw that with [2009's Referndum-71] ... HRC has seven full-time community organizers in seven districts in Washington state and they've hired a business lobbyist to work with businesses, and all of that has to be paid for. And the way to do that is by giving to Washington United for Marriage."

[Photo: Gregoire.]


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