With Gov. Chris Gregoire and his partner of 21 years standing behind him in the wings, Sen. Ed Murray asked his fellow lawmakers in the state Senate to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. “I realize this is a difficult personal issue because it is about family, and at the heart of family is marriage,” Murray said.
Other senators shared their personal stories, at times getting emotional. Republican Sen. Dan Swecker said he was opposed to changing the definition of marriage. In response, Sen. Debbie Regala said when she married her husband 44 years ago, the ban on interracial marriage had just been lifted. “I am really glad that the definition of a legal marriage has been changed to include mine,” Regala said.
Sen. Kevin Ranker said his father is gay, and many people in his own family refused to accept it. “People dealt with my father’s life by ignoring it, by not talking about it. This silence was worse than outspoken hatred,” he said in an emotional speech.
Republican Sen. Cheryl Pflug explained why she is supporting the bill. Tradition is not always right, she said, particularly when it came to racial struggles in the past. Tradition “is kind to the majority, but not to the minority,” Pflug said.
More than hour into the debate, Sen. Margarita Prentice drew laughter and applause when she said she’s ready to vote. Speaking before the vote began, Sen. Ed Murray said that no matter how his friends in the Senate vote, they’ll still be getting something from him: A wedding invitation.
The bill passed with 28 yes votes and 21 no votes, with four Republicans voting in support of the bill. Dozens of people watching in the gallery erupted into cheers and applause after the vote on the bill, which passed with seven amendments. The House will likely take the up the issue early next week.
“I was moved by my colleagues’ courage, and the tone of the debate was one of the best I’ve seen in 17 years in the Legislature,” Murray said.
Gov. Chris Gregoire released a statement after the vote applauding the move. “Tonight the Washington state Senate stood up for what is right and told all families in our state that they are equal, and that the state cannot be in the business of discrimination,” Gregoire said.