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Washington marriage equality bill poised to pass

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen secures the last vote needed

Earlier this month Governor of our close neighbor Christine Gregoire announced her support for marriage equality in Washington state.

The House already had enough necessary votes to pass a bill and, as of today, so does the Senate. Following a two hour legislative hearing in Olympia today Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island has said she will support the bill (6239). She is the 25th to add her support including 2 Republicans. Her decision was a difficult one, which she acknowledges in this statement released today:

“For several weeks now, I have heard from the people of my district. They’ve shared what’s in their hearts and minds.

“I have received many letters, emails, phone calls, very heartfelt, from both sides of the issue. I’ve also received a number of very negative comments from both sides.

“For some people, this is a simple issue. I envy them. It has not been simple or easy for me.

“To some degree, this is generational. Years ago I took exception to my parents’ beliefs on certain social issues, and today my children take exception to some of mine. Times change, even if it makes us uncomfortable. I think we should all be uncomfortable sometime. None of us knows everything, and it’s important to have our beliefs questioned. Only one being in this world is omniscient, and it’s not me.

“I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs. It’s not always easy to do that. For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.

“But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.
“For as long as I have been alive, living in my country has been about having the freedom to live according to our own personal and religious beliefs, and having people respect that freedom.

“Not everyone will agree with my position. I understand and respect that. I also trust that people will remember that we need to respect each other’s beliefs. All of us enjoy the benefits of being Americans, but none of us holds a monopoly on what it means to be an American. Ours is truly a big tent, and while the tent may grow and shrink according to the political winds of the day, it should never shrink when it comes to our rights as individuals.

“Do I respect people who feel differently? Do I not feel they should have the right to do as they want? My beliefs dictate who I am and how I live, but I don’t see where my believing marriage is between a man and a woman gives me the right to decide that for everyone else.

“I’ve weighed many factors in arriving at this decision, and one of them was erased when the legislation heard today included an amendment to clearly provide for the rights of a church to choose not to marry a couple if that marriage contradicts the church’s view of its teachings. That’s important, and it helped shape my decision.

“My preference would be to put this issue on the ballot and give all Washingtonians the opportunity to wrestle with this issue, to search their hearts as I have, and to make the choice for themselves. But I do not know that there are the votes to put it to a ballot measure. So, forced to make a choice, my choice is to allow all men and women in our state to enjoy the same privileges that are so important in my life. I will vote in favor of marriage equality.

“I know this announcement makes me the so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage. That’s neither here nor there. If I were the first or the seventh or the 28th vote, my position would not be any different. I happen to be the 25th because I insisted on taking this much time to hear from my constituents and to sort it out for myself, to reconcile my religious beliefs with my beliefs as an American, as a legislator, and as a wife and mother who cannot deny to others the joys and benefits I enjoy.

“This is the right vote and it is the vote I will cast when this measure comes to the floor.”

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, prime sponsor of the measure in the Senate, had thought he’d have to put the legislation up for a floor vote without knowing the outcome before Haugen’s announcement today and he praised Haugen as courageous, noting her district is divided politically.

“This was a very difficult decision for her to make, personally and politically,” he said. “These were heart-to-heart discussions and she worked through her own process.”

Once the hearings are over, the bills could move out of committee by Thursday in the Senate and by Jan. 30 in the House. The chairmen of both committees said they have the votes they need. The House bill is also expected to go through the House Ways and Means Committee. It’s not clear if the Senate’s measure will go through Senate Ways and Means.

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