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Washington legislature legalizes same-sex marriage

28 February 2012

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

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 raised with. A vote against will label me as a bigot who is against extending the basic rights that I enjoy to all residents of our state.”

Others were more confident about their votes. Republican Representative Maureen Walsh stated simply that, “it is about equality” and expressed how she would like to one day hold a wedding for her daughter who recently came out. Republican Representative Jay Rodne, who voted against on the bill, stated that, “It’s an exercise of power that contravenes human nature and will hurt families and children. … This is not a matter of equality.” Similarly, Republican Representative Bill Hinkle, who also voted against the bill, argued that because of marriage’s role in society, redefining marriage would put “the whole structure of society” at risk.

To view the bill text, read Project Vote Smart’s summary of the bill, and see how Washington legislators voted, click here.

Alisha Patel is a student at the University of Texas majoring in Government and Sociology and is a current intern at Project Vote Smart. For more information on internship opportunities for Project Vote Smart, contact us at or by calling 1-888-VOTE-SMART.


Related tags: blog, key-votes, Washington

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