As the sunlight gradually descended into the Sound this evening, one editor in the Emerald City sat in front of a large bay window peering out over Pike Place Market wondering what her state of equality might look like in the morning. She had legally married her partner two years prior in Connecticut and while nothing seemed to change when she returned home, everything did – at the same time.
Another editor sat with a baby on her chest and her partner by her side. She decided to write a post-vote speech: one scenario for if the bill passed and another for if it did not. She tucked the paper into her pocket, folding it loosely – hoping for an outcome that would protect her family and their commitment.
Both editors took a moment to pray and then they turned on the television to watch the vote.
At 6pm on Wednesday, February 1, 2012, the Washington State Senate convened for regular floor session on SB 6239 (Marriage & Domestic Partnerships) to vote on whether or not to legally allow same-sex marriage in Washington State.
Public testimony in support of the bill included responses by Kathy Sakahora, League of Women Voters; Anita Yandle, Young Democrats of WA; Lucy Homans, WA State Psychological Assn.; Joe McDermott, King County; Lucinda Young, WA Education Assn.; Jim Kabler, Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays; Brennan Smith, Rachel Smith-Mosel, Equal Rights WA; Pablo Monroy, Service Members United; Rev. Loise Van Leer, Woodinville United For Marriage; Rabbi Jonathan Singer, Temple Beth Am; Jim Justin, Office of the Governor; Shawn Morinko, Human Rights Commission; Flora Espinoza, Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer, Steve Bell, Curtis Knapp, Michael Shiosaki, Tim Coley, Alan Steinman, Gina Gonzales, Ann Eldson, Ashleigh Brock, Jean Scribner, Rick Scribner, and Matthew Burgess, citizens.
Opposing testimony was heard by Cindy Deresch, Operation Rolling Thunder; Stephen Pidgeon, Shoma Yisrael; Joe Fuiten, Cedar Park Church; Archbishop Peter Sartain, Archdiocese of Seattle; Sister Mary Matthew; Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace; Scott Manley, David McIver, Ken Hutchenson, Steve O’Ban, Jennifer Roback-Morse, Christopher Plante, Joseph Backholm, Austin R. Nimocks, Tom Taylor, David Tomlinson, Rebecca Foust, Kiki Haddon, Marie Layman, Robert Rigg, Chris Berger, Ronald Moth, and Rosyln Gore, citizens.
Titled as “An act relating to providing equal protection for all families in Washington by creating equality in civil marriage and changing the domestic partnership laws, while protecting religious freedom,” SB 6239 would seek to roll domestic partnerships into legalized marriage in Washington State on June 30, 2014.
The bill reads, specifically:
Marriage is a civil contract between two persons who are at least 18 years old and who are otherwise capable. A person cannot marry if that person has a spouse or registered domestic partner living at the time of such marriage, unless the registered domestic partner is the other party to the marriage.
The list of officers and persons, active or retired, who are authorized to solemnize marriages is amended to include imams, rabbis, or similar official of any church or religious denomination.
No regularly licensed or ordained minister or priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any church or religious denomination is required to solemnize any marriage; a refusal to do so does not create a civil claim or cause of action. No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with any church or religious denomination on the refusal of a person associated with such church or religious denomination to solemnize a marriage.
No religious organization is required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage; a refusal to do so does not create a civil claim or cause of action.
Any state registered domestic partnership in which the parties are the same sex, and neither party is at least 62 years old, that has not been dissolved or converted into marriage by the parties by June 30, 2014, is automatically merged into a marriage as of June 30, 2014.
As for domestic partners seeking dissolution of their union before automatically being considered married under state law:
If the parties to a state registered domestic partnership have proceedings for dissolution, annulment, or legal separation pending as of June 30, 2014, the parties state registered domestic partnership is not automatically merged into marriage and the dissolution, annulment, or legal separation of the state registered domestic partnership must be governed by the statutes applicable to state registered domestic partnerships in effect prior to June 30,2014.
For the purposes of determining the legal rights and responsibilities involving individuals who had previously had a state registered domestic partnership and have been issued a marriage license or are deemed married, the date of the original state registered domestic partnership is the legal date of the marriage.
The bill was largely expected to pass and land on Gov. Gregoire’s desk, where she vowed to sign it immediately.
Gov. Gregoire said on January 4, 2012: “Today, I’m announcing my support for a law that gives same-sex couples in our state the right to receive a marriage license in Washington – the same right given heterosexual couples. It is time, it is the right thing to do, and I will introduce a bill to do it.”
Senators Murray, Pflug, Hobbs, Litzow, Kohl-Welles, Ranker, Tom,Harper, Pridemore, Keiser, Kline, Regala, Eide, Rolfes, McAuliffe, Brown, Nelson, Chase, Fraser, Frockt, Conway, Kilmer, and Prentice sponsored the bill.
At 7:58pm, the bill passed the senate with 28 in favor and 21 against. The ruling resulted in an eruption of applause from within the chamber. Washington State is set to become the seventh state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage.
Washington State Human Rights Commissioner and Co-Editor of The Seattle Lesbian, Charlene Strong, made the following statement post-vote:
“Washington State once again made an important statement tonight by voting to further the protections for same-sex families. Washington has taken a stand to make its voice heard by allowing same-sex couples the language that is universal – and that speaks of our committed relationships.”
At 8:00pm, one editor kissed the newborn on her chest, looked up at her partner and asked if she would marry her…she said yes.
Also at 8:00pm, the other editor told her partner she’d marry her all over again in Washington if she could.
There will not be a double wedding.