Thursday, February 2, 2012

Marriage Equality Passes Washington State Senate. What's Next?

Washington State is on course to become the 7th state, along with DC, to legalize same-sex marriage. The state senate voted 28- 21 last night to pass legislation legalizing marriage equality. The bill had the much publicized backing of Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire, who introduced the bill in early January. The legislation now goes to the Democrat-majority House, where it has wide support.

Some in the LGBT community are holding back on their celebrations, citing plans by anti-gay groups to start a petition to gather signatures to put a voter initiative on the ballot calling for an amendment to the state constitution banning marriage equality, as happened in Maine last year. The issue was taken on during Monday nights session. Opponents and even some supporters of the legislation called for a vote to put the issue on a public referendum. It was voted down.

As predicted, opponents are claiming that the rights of heterosexuals are being violated by extending equal rights to gay and lesbian couples. The New York Times reports this morning that one of the bill's lead opponents, Republican Senator Dan Swecker, says he's worried that approving same-sex marriage would “create a hostile environment for those of us who believe in traditional marriage.”

Senator Swecker, whatever you do, don't look under your bed. There's a big, gay bogey man hiding there, just waiting to gay you up as soon as you fall asleep, so don't close your eyes even for a second.

Washington state already has domestic partnerships, in which thousands of couples are registered. The bill also addresses how those relationships would be affected. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports:

Under the measure that passed Wednesday, the more than 9,300 couples currently registered in domestic partnerships would have two years to either dissolve their relationship or get married. Domestic partnerships that aren't ended prior to June 30, 2014, would automatically become marriages.
Domestic partnerships would remain for senior couples where at least one partner is 62 years old or older. That provision was included to help seniors who don't remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.
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