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Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington State:

2012-JAN-23 to 31: Enough legislators support bill.
NOM promises referendum if bill becomes law.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay ....

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2012-JAN-23: Sufficient number of legislators agree to support SSM bill in the Senate:

After attending a two-hour hearing on Senate Bill 6239, senator Mary Margaret Haugen (D) has agreed to support it. Her commitment to vote raises the support to 25 senators, sufficient to pass the bill. The general consensus is that the House will vote in favor as well and that Governor Chris Gregoire (D) will sign it into law.

Senator Haugen released a statement saying:

"For several weeks now, I have heard from the people of my district. They've shared what's in their hearts and minds.

I have received many letters, emails, phone calls, very heartfelt, from both sides of the issue. I've also received a number of very negative comments from both sides. For some people, this is a simple issue. I envy them. It has not been simple or easy for me. To some degree, this is generational. Years ago I took exception to my parents' beliefs on certain social issues, and today my children take exception to some of mine. Times change, even if it makes us uncomfortable. I think we should all be uncomfortable sometime. None of us knows everything, and it's important to have our beliefs questioned. Only one being in this world is omniscient, and it's not me.

I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs. It's not always easy to do that. For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.

But this issue isn't about just what I believe. It's about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It's about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.
For as long as I have been alive, living in my country has been about having the freedom to live according to our own personal and religious beliefs, and having people respect that freedom.

Not everyone will agree with my position. I understand and respect that. I also trust that people will remember that we need to respect each other's beliefs. All of us enjoy the benefits of being Americans, but none of us holds a monopoly on what it means to be an American. Ours is truly a big tent, and while the tent may grow and shrink according to the political winds of the day, it should never shrink when it comes to our rights as individuals.

Do I respect people who feel differently? Do I not feel they should have the right to do as they want? My beliefs dictate who I am and how I live, but I don't see where my believing marriage is between a man and a woman gives me the right to decide that for everyone else. I've weighed many factors in arriving at this decision, and one of them was erased when the legislation heard today included an amendment to clearly provide for the rights of a church to choose not to marry a couple if that marriage contradicts the church's view of its teachings. That's important, and it helped shape my decision.

My preference would be to put this issue on the ballot and give all Washingtonians the opportunity to wrestle with this issue, to search their hearts as I have, and to make the choice for themselves. But I do not know that there are the votes to put it to a ballot measure. So, forced to make a choice, my choice is to allow all men and women in our state to enjoy the same privileges that are so important in my life. I will vote in favor of marriage equality.

I know this announcement makes me the so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage. That's neither here nor there. If I were the first or the seventh or the 28th vote, my position would not be any different. I happen to be the 25th because I insisted on taking this much time to hear from my constituents and to sort it out for myself, to reconcile my religious beliefs with my beliefs as an American, as a legislator, and as a wife and mother who cannot deny to others the joys and benefits I enjoy.

This is the right vote and it is the vote I will cast when this measure comes to the floor." 1

KING 5 interviewed Senator Haugen. Part is repeated below:

KING 5: "Did you have trouble reconciling this with your faith?"

"No actually, I didn’t really.  It wasn’t my faith as much as it was my belief in traditional marriage.  My children told me it’s like a generational thing, and I think to some degree it is generational.  My parents were prejudiced, I didn’t agree with them.  My children don’t agree with me.  I think we all grow in this world, and I’m like the governor, I’ve had a journey with myself on this issue, the separation of church and religion.  My son was married in Germany and I saw civil services there where everyone is married equally, and I like that.  I’ve believed in traditional marriage.  But a lot of people who get married traditionally, are not very religious either, so it’s a personal thing for me.

It’s emotional because of the letters that I got. There’s a young man I watched grow up tell me he was going to commit suicide until someone told him that he too was gay.  It’s from the mothers who talk about their children.  I’m a mother, talk about how they want their children to have a good life. If you really listen to people, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do is listen to people, and I listened the heart of my district and and I think the heart of my district says this is the right thing to do."

KING 5: "You realize of course, you’re the 25th vote."

"I don’t think it makes any difference if your the 25th or 26th.  I’ve come to the decision.  It’s time to go back and concentrate on what we need to be concentrating on ... This has absorbed a great deal of our time as an issue like this should, but we need to move on."

KING 5: "Downstairs in the public hearing, there are a lot of people who believe this would be an erosion of marriage."

"It doesn’t threaten my marriage.  If anything, it strengthens family, and I think we need to strengthen family.  I grew up in a time when a single mother was looked down on.  This is about families." 2

The bill in the Senate has 25 votes in support, the minimum needed to pass the bill. A corresponding bill in the House has 50 sponsors among the 98 representatives. The governor, Chris Gregoire (D), is an enthusiastic sponsor. Same-sex marriage looks like Washington State will become the eighth political jurisdiction in the U.S. to legalize SSM. The legislature is expected to send the bill to the governor in March. If signed into law, loving, committed same-sex couples would be able to marry in 2012-JUN. 3

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2012-JAN-23: National Organization for Marriage promises referendum campaign:

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is the main group opposing marriage by same-sex couples in the United States. It has promised to work with allies in Washington State to place a referendum on SSM on the 2012-NOV ballot. President Brian Brown said:

"NOM will not stand by and let activist politicians redefine marriage, the bedrock of civilization, without voters having a say. Just as we mounted a People's Veto in Maine and were responsible for qualifying Proposition 8 to the ballot in California, we will make sure that voters in Washington have the ability to decide the definition of marriage for themselves."

"Thirty one states have voted on the definition of marriage and everyone voted to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Not only will we mount a successful referendum campaign, we will hold every Washington legislator accountable for his or her vote. We'll challenge Republicans in primaries, and we will take on Democrats in the General Election and make sure that their constituents know they tried to abandon the most important social institution ever devised without voters being given a say in the matter." 4

The voter initiative in Maine and the Proposition 8 in California both passed by very narrow margins, and stopped -- at least temporarily -- SSM in those states.

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This topic continues in the next essay ....

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References used in this essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Andrew Garber, "Senate has votes needed to pass gay marriage legislation," The Seattle Times, 2012-JAN-23, at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/
  2. "KING 5 interview with Sen. Haugen ...,"KING 5, 2012-JAN-23, at: http://makupfront.tumblr.com/
  3. "Washington State on the Cusp of Marriage Equality. With governor's support and majorities in Senate and House, advocates have eye on opponents' referendum plans," Gay City News, 2012-JAN-24, at: http://www.gaycitynews.com/
  4. Brian Brown, "The National Organization for Marriage Pledges Referendum Campaign if Legislature Tries to Redefine Marriage," National Organization for Marriage, 2012-JAN-23, at: http://www.nationformarriage.org/

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-JAN-23
Latest update: 2012-FEB-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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