Archive for Same sex marriage

Bill would allow businesses to refuse services based on religious beliefs

By | April 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

Sen. Sharon Brown

Republican Sen. Sharon Brown of Kennewick has introduced a new bill allowing businesses to refuse service to customers due to their religious beliefs, drawing sharp criticism from some Senate Democrats.

Senate Bill 5927 would protect the “right of an individual or entity to deny services” if providing those services is contrary to their “sincerely held religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, or matters of conscience.”

Last month, a florist in Richland refused to provide provide flowers for the same-sex wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. The florist, Barronelle Stutzman, now faces legal action from both the state attorney general’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union for declining to provide flowers.

Stutzman has maintained that her refusal was because of her religious beliefs. Her attorney has said that Stutzman’s actions are protected by constitutional right to freedom of speech, association and religious exercise.

Ten Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation. The proposal drew a strong rebuke this week from Senate Democrats.

Sen. Kevin Ranker (D – Orcas Island) called the bill a “license to hate” in a press release issued Friday. And Senate Democratic leader Ed Murray said, in a press release of his own, that the bill is an attempt to “undo basic civil rights protections.”

“The whole notion that a business should have the right to discriminate against it’s customers is abhorrent,” Murray said.

There are only two days left in regular session, which ends Sunday. But Brown said in a press release that the measure could be considered during a special session or in the 2014 session.

Attorney General says florist lawsuit could go to state Supreme Court

By | April 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Earlier this week Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against a florist in Richland who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding ceremony. On Thursday, Ferguson told “Inside Olympia” host Austin Jenkins that the florist violated the state’s consumer protection laws that protect against discrimination.

“Whether you are running a restaurant, or whether you sell flowers, when you have a public accommodation in that sense, you’re not allowed to discriminate,” said Ferguson. “If you choose to sell flowers to a heterosexual couple for their wedding, you can’t refuse to sell flowers to a same-sex couple.”

According to the Tri-City Herald, Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, went to Arlene’s Flowers to buy arrangements for their wedding. The shop’s owner, Barronelle Stutzman, refused to sell to the couple because of her religious beliefs.

Ferguson said that he had originally hoped to resolve the case informally, and started by sending the florist a letter asking her to simply state that she would no longer refuse service to same-sex couples. He said that if she had agreed with that, there would have been no fees or costs to her. However, she hired a lawyer to contest the claim, and Ferguson said that he had no choice but to continue with the lawsuit.

The attorneys for Stuzman deny that she is in violation of the law, and argue that she is exercising her First Amendment rights.

Ferguson said the case may be one that sets a new precedent.

“The issue around sexual orientation and marriage equality is a contested one around the country and the state,” said Ferguson. “I think it does up the ante that, potentially, it could go to the state Supreme Court.”

For the full interview, click on the video below. Jenkins also interviews Rep. Ross Hunter about the House’s budget proposal and state Capitol reporters, Jerry Cornfield of the Everett Herald and Jordan Schrader of the Tacoma News Tribune.

On ‘Legislative Review’: Public testimony on the budget and conversion therapy

By | April 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

We have highlights from Wednesday night’s public hearing on the budget on the most recent edition of “Legislative Review.” People lined up to testify on everything from the parks system to education during the hearing that lasted more than five hours. Plus, discussion of a bill that would study “conversion therapy” — a controversial practice that attempts to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians.

After 53 years together, couple finally gets to wed as gay marriage becomes legal

By | December 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Rudy Henry holds up a card showing he's first in line for a marriage license

In 1958, Rudy Henry met John McCluskey at a New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco.

That’s the part they can agree on.

“We dated awhile before moving in together,” Rudy said.

“That’s not true,” John said. “It was love at first sight. He came to the party with someone else, but he left with me.”

That was more than 50 years ago.

Today, they were the first couple in line at the Pierce County Auditor’s Office to get their marriage license on the day same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State.

The office opened early at 6:30 a.m. to accommodate the 27 couples who wanted to be among the first in the county to get their marriage licenses. Deputy auditor Lori Augino said the office expected 150 couples before the end of the day.

Rudy, who is 78 years old and in a wheelchair because of a stroke, was so excited he had trouble sleeping the night before. Still, he had mixed emotions about the day.

“What’s sad about this is that I’m an American citizen, and so are my parents,” Rudy said. “But I was denied things that were never denied other people — the benefits of being a citizen in this country.”

“We never, ever thought we would ever get to this day,” said John, 76.


Gov. Gregoire signs same-sex marriage law

By | December 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified Referendum 74 at a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry in Washington state.

“We’ve said one more step, one more step,” Gregoire said before signing the law, which takes effect Thursday. “This is the last step for marriage equality in Washington state.”

Terry Virgona and her partner, Marcy Kulland, were at the signing ceremony. They plan to wed on Sept. 28, 2013 — their 21st anniversary.

“I”m ecstatic,” said Virgona, a retired Army nurse. “I never thought this would happen.”

Categories: Same sex marriage

Opponents of same-sex marriage concede defeat

By | November 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Opponents of same-sex marriage conceded defeated today, blaming secular voters in Washington and a financial disadvantage.

“Washington has a very high percentage of voters who never attend church, and polling showed that 80 percent of unchurched voters approved of Referendum 74. On top of that, our opponents had a giant financial advantage, outspending us by $10 million, so the odds became even more difficult,” said Joseph Backholm, chairman of Preserve Marriage Washington, in a statement on the campaign’s website.

Supporters of same-sex marriage declared victory on Wednesday after their number-crunchers determined that they would be able to hold onto their early lead. At last count, same-sex marriage was winning with 52 percent of the vote.

Gov. Chris Gregoire released a statement praising the passage of Referendum 74. Gregoire introduced the legislation that would become the same-sex marriage bill at the beginning of the year.

“Washington has made history and I couldn’t be prouder. Voters stood up for what is right and what is just and said that all Washington families are equal under the law. I am proud that our LGBT families will no longer be treated as separate but equal, they will be equal,” Gregoire said.

T-Mobile backs same-sex marriage, politics in redistricting and more

By | August 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

A couple of newsworthy notes:

1. Cell phone company T-Mobile, which employs about 4,800 workers in Washington state, announced today that they’re backing efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. T-Mobile made a $25,000 donation and endorsement to Washington United for Marriage, the primary campaign working to approve Referendum 74. “T-Mobile has a long-standing focus on creating an inclusive workplace environment for our employees,” said Jim Alling, interim CEO. Read the news release here.

2. Speaking of same-sex marriage, TVW began filming spots this week from initiative and referendum campaigns to add to the Video Voters’ Guide. Joseph Backholm (pictured at right), who is leading the No on Referendum 74 campaign, was in the studio today to record his statement. Representatives from other campaigns — including Yes on R-74, charter schools initiative and marijuana legalization — will be recording spots later in the week. We’ll keep you posted when those go live.

3. Through emails obtained with a public records request, The News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan does a great job of spelling out just how political the redistricting process really is — on both sides of the aisle. Read the story here.

4. The state parks system released a report last week that said it can’t operate without money from the state, and they’re asking for $18 million to make sure park gates stay open. The Herald got responses from both gubernatorial candidates. Both Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna said the parks system needs public funding, although neither candidate would commit to a dollar amount. Read the story here.

Categories: Same sex marriage, TVW

Judge tosses phrase from same-sex marriage referendum

By | March 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

A Thurston County judge ruled Tuesday that a referendum to repeal the same-sex marriage law cannot include the phrase “redefine marriage” on the ballot in the fall election. The ruling frees backers of the referendum to begin collecting the 120,577 signatures they need by June 6th to put the issue to voters.

Gov. Gregoire signed a bill passed by the Legislature last month that allows same-sex couples to marry. Opponents of same-sex marriage are seeking to overturn the law with Referendum 74, which asks voters to approve or reject the legislation.

The Attorney General’s original language for the ballot summary of Referendum 74 said it would “redefine marriage” to allow same-sex couples to marry. The League of Women Voters of Washington and PFLAG sued to challenge the wording, arguing that it was politically charged.

Under Judge Thomas McPhee’s ruling, the following language will be used to summarize the ballot measure if it reaches voters:

“This bill allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. After 2014, existing domestic partnerships are converted to marriages, except for seniors.  It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies.  The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster care or child placement.”

Governor signs same-sex marriage bill

By | February 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Flanked by more than 40 lawmakers, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill into law this morning legalizing same-sex marriage. Hundreds of people waited outside the state reception room where she signed the bill, and they chanted “Gregoire! Gregoire!” as she walked in.

Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who sponsored the House’s version of the bill, said he’s proud of Washington for taking a first step toward equal rights.

“With the signing of this bill, Washington is the first state to repeal the first so-called Defense of Marriage Act and make marriage available to gay and lesbian families,” Pedersen said. He thanked his partner and “future husband” Eric, who was at the signing with their four young children.

Regardless of what happens in the months ahead, Sen. Ed Murray said “nothing will take this moment in history away from us.” He was referring to an effort by opponents to put a referendum on the November ballot that would repeal the same-sex marriage law.

Murray thanked several lawmakers for their support, including Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. “You’ve heard it said you need a woman in the house. Well, the skills of Rep. Laurie Jinkins proves that you need a lesbian in the house,” Murray joked.

In her remarks before signing the bill, Gov. Gregoire said today “is a proud day that historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights.”

She talked about a 16-year-old girl who had considered suicide because of her sexual orientation, but changed her mind after hearing the discussion surrounding same-sex marriage, which “allowed her to live.” Gregoire teared up when thanking the younger generation — especially her daughters — for speaking up in support of equal rights.

Just before signing the bill, Gregoire said its purpose is “simple and clear.” It allows same-sex couples the same right to a marriage license as a heterosexual couple, Gregoire said, while still protecting the rights of religious organizations and churches.

Same-sex marriage bill signing ceremony today

By | February 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

At 11:30 a.m., Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign a bill into law that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state. We’ll be live with the event on TVW, and we’ll also have coverage on the blog.

Opponents have promised to put a referendum on the ballot that would overturn the law. After she’s signed the bill, they are allowed to begin collecting the 120,577 signatures they’ll need to send the issue to the ballot in November. If they collect enough signatures by June 6th, then the law will be suspended until the results of the November election are certified. Otherwise, same-sex couples could wed as early as June 7th.

Updated: House passes same-sex marriage bill, 55-43

By | February 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House voted to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage 55-43, following more than two hours of debate.

Rep. Jamie Pedersen opened up debate by saying that he and his partner Eric are grateful for the protections that their domestic partnership provides, but it is a “pale and inadequate substitute” for marriage.

“Marriage is the word our society uses to describe a committed, lifelong relationship,” Pedersen said. “Teachers, doctors, neighbors — and as we discovered this weekend — TurboTax understands the word marriage immediately. They do not understand domestic partnership.”

Rep. Jay Rodne said there is a “natural order” to human existence, and children adopted by same-sex couples will lose a connection with one of their biological parents. “For the first time in Washington history, the state will sever a relationship with one of the child’s biological parents,” Rodne said.

Rep. Norma Smith also urged a “no” vote, saying that the bill is a part of a broader issue being played across the country with implications for religious freedom. “Individuals are left out of this bill,” Smith said. “Small business owners who have a heartfelt view – born out of their love of God – have the potential to be silenced.”

Rep. Maureen Walsh was the first Republican to speak in support of the bill. She told a story about how her daughter stood up for a kid who was being bullied in school because it was the right thing to do. As an adult, her daughter came out of the closet. “Nothing is different. She’s still a fabulous human being and met a person she loves, and someday I want to throw a wedding for that kid,” Walsh said. “I hope I can do that. I hope she will not feel like a second-class citizen. Domestic partnership sounds like a Merry Maids franchise.”

Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney said she has two sons who are gay. “Both have been subjected to harassment and rejection. This hurt cannot be erased, and some will last with them forever,” she said.

House runs through amendments to same-sex marriage bill

By | February 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House has just begun its debate on legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.

At least eight amendments are on the table; the first one, introduced by Rep. Matt Shea, would protect private businesses — such as florists and bakers — who refuse to provide services for gay and lesbian couples. Shea also introduced an amendment that would require that couples have a one-month waiting period before getting married. Neither amendment passed.

Rep. Jay Rodne asked for a referendum clause that would send the issue to voters in November, saying that same-sex marriage is “one of the most important issues the body will consider this session.” Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Deborah Eddy compared the issue to interracial marriage and said that it is the legislature’s duty to stand up for civil rights.

None of the amendments passed. They are now moving on to the vote.


Same-sex marriage bill clears House committee

By | February 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Washington state is moving quickly toward final passage of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Less than a week after the state Senate approved the measure, the House Judiciary committee voted this morning 7-5 to pass the Senate’s version of the same-sex marriage bill.

It was the final public hearing on the issue, and more than a dozen supporters and opponents testified. Among them was Charlene Strong, whose partner Kate Fleming died in 2006 when the basement of their Seattle home flooded. Because they were not married, “I was left like a stranger trying to find someone’s in Kate’s family who could give me permission to be by my dying wife’s side,” she said.

Republicans introduced several amendments, but none passed. Previous debates have focused on the rights of private businesses – such as florists and bakers – who refuse to provide services to gay couples. That was again a point of contention at Monday’s vote.

“What we are doing is creating a confrontation where individuals will have to choose between their religious beliefs and their livelihood,” said Rep. Matt Shea, who called it a “horrible, horrible choice.”

The full House could vote on the issue as early as this week. It would then go to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.

Week 4: Let’s Review

By | February 3, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday: The House Judiciary committee voted the same-sex marriage legislation out of committee. A Senate committee heard a bill that would tighten up ethical rules for public employees, prompted by a case last year of an ethics claim against a Department of Corrections administrator who worked on behalf of nonprofit groups on state time. And a bipartisan group of 42 Washington state lawmakers sent a letter to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration asking for marijuana to be reclassified so it can be prescribed as a medicine by doctors and filled in pharmacies..

Watch Monday’s Legislative Review.

Tuesday: The House Labor committee on heard five bills related to the minimum wage, including one that would lower the base wage of tipped employees and another that would pay a lower “training wage.” The Senate Higher Education committee considered a bill that would prohibit state money from going to college athletics. And a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked that the state fund K-12 education separately from the rest of the budget.

Watch Tuesday’s Legislative Review.

Wednesday: In a late night floor session, the state Senate voted 28-21 to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. We have full video and a photo gallery from the event. On the show, we covered the redistricting plan as it took a first big step forward, and legislation that would allow schools to have classes separated by gender.

Watch Wednesday’s Legislative Review.

Thursday: House Republicans offered details on a plan that would create a separate K-12 education budget. Also, lawmakers considered stricter rules for spraying pesticides on farmland.

Watch Thursday’s Legislative Review.

Friday: Today is the cutoff day for non-budget policy bills to be considered in committee. Catch tonight’s half-hour edition of Legislative Review recapping the week’s events at 6:30 and 11 p.m. on TVW.

Same-sex marriage vote: A photo gallery

By | February 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sen. Paull Shin, a Democrat who voted against same-sex marriage legislation, hugged the bill's prime sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, in the wings after the bill passed.

Click to see more photos

Categories: Same sex marriage

Watch the full Senate debate on same-sex marriage here

By | February 2, 2012 | 0 Comments

The state Senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage on Wednesday night with a vote of 28-21. Watch the full debate and vote here.

Categories: Same sex marriage

UPDATED: Senate passes same-sex marriage bill, 28-21

By | February 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

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.

After the session adjourned, Sen. Ed Murry said he had anticipated 27 votes, so getting 28 votes was a “pleasant” surprise.

“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.

Senate runs through amendments on same-sex marriage bill

By | February 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Here’s a look at the Senate, where they’re currently working through the amendments to the same-sex marriage bill.

Several amendments have been adopted that are aimed at providing stronger protections for churches and religious organizations.

Sen. Swecker asked for an amendment that would have extended those protections to what he described as “blue collar workers,” such as florists or photographers who opposes gay marriage. The amendment was not adopted.

Sen. Hatfield, a previously undecided Democrat who announced shortly before the session that he would be voting yes on the bill, asked for a referendum clause that would send the issue to voters in the fall. Noting that opponents will likely collect enough signatures anyway, Hatfield said he wants to “trust the people of the state and let voters have the ultimate say.”

Sen. Lisa Brown said she doesn’t believe that’s fair. She said she opposes it for several reasons, including a personal one: Her sister has been in a relationship with a woman for 20 years, and she doesn’t think it’s fair to ask voters whether her sister should have the same rights that she has.

Brown said there were “sad times” in history where if people had voted, they would have been “tragically wrong.”

But Sen. Mike Padden said this is a critical issue to send to voters. Marriage is “a basic unit of society,” he said. “One of the reasons we have marriage laws is because of children and the idea that it’s a pretty neat thing for them to have a mom and dad,” he said.

The amendment failed, 26 to 23.

That was the final amendment — now, they’re on to debating final passage of the bill. We’ll write about that in a separate post, so please refresh your browser.

Sen. Ed Murray gears up for “historic” night; another senator announces support

By | February 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

Standing with his partner of 21 years, Sen. Ed Murray said he is prepared for a “very late” night of floor debate in the Senate on the same-sex marriage bill, which he described as “historic” for gays and lesbians around the country.

Murray’s partner Michael Shiosaki said he never thought today would happen when the couple first met on a camping trip on Mt. Rainer two decades ago. They are registered domestic partners, but Murray said it is not the same as marriage. “That is how society says you are a family,” Murray said.

Several amendments to the bill were on the table so far, including that would ensure that existing laws regarding the rights of faith-based adoption centers wouldn’t change. Murray said there is a possibility that one or two of the amendments may be accepted.

Shortly before the floor debate was set to begin, Sen. Brian Hatfield released a statement saying he would vote yes on the bill. “As private citizens, we are able to have that opinion, but as legislators, our “no” vote on this issue will be seen as loving my fellow man or woman less, based on their sexual orientation and an act of discrimination.  That is something I cannot do,” Hatfield said in the statement. Twenty five other senators have previously said they will vote yes.

The Senate gallery is full of people watching the debate. TVW will be live with coverage at 6 p.m., and we’ll have more on the blog and tomorrow’s edition of Legislative Review.

Gay marriage up for floor vote in state Senate on Wednesday

By | January 31, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sen. Ed Murray told The Seattle Times that a bill legalizing same-sex marriage will get a floor vote in the state Senate on Wednesday morning.

The bill was voted out of the Senate Government Operations committee last week with revised language that provides stronger protections for churches and other religious organizations that don’t want to rent out their facilities for same-sex weddings. Twenty-five senators have said they will vote yes on the bill, giving it enough votes to pass.

The House Judiciary committee voted on a companion bill on Monday, passing it along party lines. Bill sponsor Rep. Jamie Pederson told the committee that the Senate bill will likely be used as the vehicle for final passage. No word yet on when the House will vote on the issue.


Categories: Same sex marriage