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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Project Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

Washington legislature legalizes same-sex marriage

2012 February 28

By Alisha Patel, Legislative Research Intern, University of Texas-Austin Office 

The 
Washington legislature has just passed a bill (SB 6239) that authorizes same-sex marriage. The bill, which was recently signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire, makes Washington the seventh state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. For the most part, Senators and Representatives voted along party lines, however in the Senate there were four Republicans voting for the bill and three Democrats opposing it. In the House, two Republicans voted for the bill and three Democrats crossed the aisle to vote against it. Regardless, the votes were very narrow: the bill passed 28-21 in the Senate and 55-43 in the House

Although the bill authorizes marriage for same-sex couples, it specifies restrictions on where and by whom they can marry. Under the provision, licensed religious officials can choose not to provide religious-based marriage services for same-sex couples, and religious organizations are not obligated to provide facilities. It defines marriage as a civil contract between two persons who are aged 18 years or older.

Democratic Senator Brian Hatfield, who voted for the bill, nevertheless had reservations about taking a stand on the issue. He stated, “Regardless of how I choose to vote on the issue of marriage equality, I will alienate myself from friends and neighbors that I have known for years. A vote in favor of marriage equality will enrage those who see it as a stone cast against God and the beliefs that I and thousands like me have been ...

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