Wash. Senator Says Tenor Of Gay Rights Debates Has Evolved

Feb 10, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gay rights supporters will gather Monday in an ornate reception room in the Washington state capitol. They will witness history as Governor Chris Gregoire signs into law legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins looks at how the rhetoric that led to this controversial moment has changed.

Monday’s bill signing won’t mean same-sex marriages are immediately allowed in Washington. There’s a 90-day window before the law goes into effect. And that gets delayed if opponents collect enough signatures to place a repeal measure on the fall ballot, something they’ve vowed to do.

It was just 14 years ago when the Washington legislature voted to enshrine in law that marriage is between one man and one woman. On the House floor, Republican Joyce Mulliken said gay people suffer from a “moral disorder.”

Joyce Mulliken: “When they engage in homosexual activity, they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.”

Openly gay state Senator Ed Murray was a freshman lawmaker back then. He recalls the House floor was cleared of school-age pages – including one of his nephews.

Ed Murray: “The debates in the House back in the 90s were debates both in the committee and the floor that I still can’t believe that this institution allowed to happen.”

Murray calls the tone back then “denigrating." But he says it’s evolved into what he considers a “civil” debate this month over gay marriage. In recent years Murray helped shepherd legislation that expanded Washington’s anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation and established domestic partnerships. But marriage was always the ultimate goal.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network