OLYMPIA, WASH. – The battle to allow gay marriage in Washington has cleared a major hurdle. The Washington state Senate voted [last night] Wednesday night to approve same-sex marriage. The vote was 28 to 21. Four Republicans voting with the majority. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins was there for the historic debate.
Gay marriage supporters packed the senate galleries hours before debate got underway. Among them Richard Cannon and Richard Bullock, together nearly 25 years. Bullock said their children from previous marriages are now grown and married.
Bullock: “We have grandchildren now and it’s time for our wedding. We want the grandkids there.”
Bullock and Cannon said they wanted to witness history and be a part of something they’ve worked hard for. What followed was a nearly hour-and-a-half long floor debate. One that was impassioned but always civil. Prime sponsor Ed Murray is an openly gay Seattle Democrat. He called gay marriage as contentious an issue the Washington state Senate has ever debated.
Murray: “Those members who will vote against this bill tonight, they are not, nor should they be accused of bigotry. Those of us who support this legislation are not, and we should not be accused of, undermining family life or religious freedom.”
Murray found support among a handful of Republicans. They included Senator Cheryl Pflug of suburban Seattle.
Pflug: “Tradition, the way it’s always been, is comfortable and it’s kind, often, to the majority. But not so very kind to the minority.”
But her fellow Republican, Dan Swecker warned that gay marriage will lead to the silencing of those who believe marriage should be between one man and one woman.
Swecker: “Can people who want to redefine marriage tolerate the fact that much of the population regards traditional marriage as the best way to bring up the next generation of children?”
Another no vote was cast by longtime Democratic state Senator Jim Hargrove. He said his faith could not allow him to support gay marriage. Choking up, he asked forgiveness to anyone he might offend.
Hargrove: “But I have to do what I believe is right and for me right is voting against this bill and I have the utmost respect for Senator Murray who for my part is a very good friend.”
Governor Chris Gregoire was among those who watched the debate from the Senate wings. Senator Murray closed with a promise that if gay marriage becomes the law of Washington every senator will get an invitation to he and his partner’s wedding no matter how they voted. And with that the votes were tallied.
Senate Staff: “Mr. President, 28 yays, 21 nays (applause).”
Afterwards, ecstatic supporters gathered in the rotunda of the state capitol. Barb Glenn held a poster celebrating 30 years with her partner Susan.
Glenn: “I’m 56. I just didn’t expect it. And I’m so happy. So happy.”
Next up, the House will debate the measure as early as next week. It’s expected to pass. Governor Gregoire has said she’ll sign it. Opponents have vowed a repeal effort at the ballot this fall. I’m Austin Jenkins in Olympia.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network