Washington Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill With a 28-21 Vote

Posted by Chris Geidner
February 1, 2012 11:30 PM |

[NOTE: This post was updated throughout the aftermath of the vote, with the final update at 12:50 a.m. Feb. 2.]


[Photo: The Washington Senate, voting on Feb. 1, 2012, to pass the state's marriage equality bill. (Photo by Joe Mirabella.)]

In Washington state on the evening of Feb. 1, the marriage equality bill passed the state Senate on a 28-21 vote, after defeating an amendment to the legislation, on a 23-26 vote, that would have sent the bill directly to the voters after passage.

In a statement released after the vote, Gregoire said, "This vote was courageous and was only possible with bipartisan support. That support shows Washington’s commitment to equality. Fair-minded and responsible leaders crafted a bill that protects religious freedoms while ensuring equal rights. I commend our state Senators who acknowledged tonight that separate but equal is not equal."

The bill was sent to the state House, where it is expected to pass. Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), who was in the Senate chamber this evening according to change.org's Joe Mirabella, is in support of the bill and will sign it.

Gregoire was urging lawmakers forward, saying, "Tonight our families are better for this vote. Our kids have a brighter future for this bill. And our state is better for this bill. I encourage the House to approve this bill and get it to my desk for my signature."

If and when that happens, the effective date of the bill would be contingent on the deadline to hold a referendum on the law passing without opponents gathering the necessary signatures to put the bill up to a referendum. The bill's sponsor, out gay state Sen. Ed Murray (D), expects a referendum, telling The Stranger's Dan Savage, "The rightwing will put it on the ballot."

washingtonsenate.pngLacey All, Chair of Washington United for Marriage, said in a statement, "We thank Majority Leader Brown, Sen. Murray and the bipartisan coalition of senators who stood with us today in the name of equality.

"The overwhelming support we're seeing from businesses, labor, faith communities and people all across the state is a testament to the momentum of this movement and sensibilities of Washingtonians," she continued. "Volunteers from every part of the state have contributed thousands of hours of their time to make today possible, and we thank them for their commitment to this issue."

As recently as Jan. 23, the bill had only had the announced support of 24 senators. On that day, however, state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D) pledged to support the bill, giving supports the make-or-break 25th vote. Earlier the evening of Feb. 1, state Sen. Brian Hatfield announced he would provide the 26th vote. Among the two unexpected yes votes on Feb. 1 was state Sen. Joe Fain (R), according to Ben Crowther.

Three other Republican senators voted for the bill: Sens. Steve Litzow, Cheryl Pflug and Andy Hill. Twenty-four of the chamber's 27 Democrats voted for the bill, including state Sen. Margarita Prentice (D), who ended the floor speeches -- save for Murray -- by proclaiming, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready to vote!"

The three Democrats voting no, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, were state Sens. Jim Hargrove, Tim Sheldon and Paull Shinn.

According to Washington United for Marriage, opponents wishing to challenge the new law would have until June to collect 120,557 valid signatures -- the amount required to place a referendum on the November 2012 ballot. The passage of the state's comprehensive domestic partnership law in 2009 led to Referendum 71, in which voters approved the domestic partnership law that year.

The marriage equality bill's passage on Feb. 1 was praised by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund -- as was Murray, who is the only out LGBT lawmaker in the state Senate.

"Tonight's vote is a victory for fairness in Washington, and for Senator Ed Murray, who has worked so hard for so long to make life better for LGBT Washingtonians," Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, said in a statement. "When this bill is finally signed into law, Ed and Michael, his partner of 20 years, will finally have realized the equality under state law Ed has fought for since he was first elected to the legislature in 1995."

For Gregoire's part, she concluded her statement simply: "I look forward to the day when all Washington citizens have equal opportunity to marry the person they love."

[Image: Screen capture of the Washington Senate, following the successful marriage equality bill vote.]

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