Sequim’s state representatives support Gov. Chris Gregoire’s quest to allow same-sex marriage in Washington, while the 24th District’s state senator does not.
State Reps. Kevin Van De Wege and Steve Tharinger, both D-Sequim, released a joint statement Jan. 9 in support of marriage equality.
“Whether or not to get married is a couple’s own choice and government shouldn’t stand in the way,” they said.
State Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, is one of six Democratic senators who did not sign on to Senate Bill 6239, introduced Jan. 13. He declined to comment on the issue.
In total, 23 members of the Washington State Senate signed on to sponsor the bill, making it two members short of the majority needed to pass it. The bill provides equal marriage regardless of gender or sexual orientation and leaves it up to religious institutions as to which marriage ceremonies they will perform and which marriages they will recognize for religious purposes.
The first public hearing on SB 6239 is expected to be held Jan. 23.
Gregoire announced Jan. 4 her intention to introduce legislation to legalize gay marriage. Gregoire, who has not always supported same-sex marriage, said it is the right thing to do.
“I say that as a wife, a mother, a student of the law, and above all as a Washingtonian with a lifelong commitment to equality and freedom,” she said. “Some say domestic partnerships are the same as marriage. That’s a version of the discriminatory ‘separate but equal’ argument.”
If approved, Washington would be the seventh state in the nation to legalize gay marriage, following Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. The District of Columbia also allows gay marriage.
“Our gay and lesbian families face the same hurdles as heterosexual families — making ends meet, choosing what school to send their kids to, finding someone to grow old with, standing in front of friends and family and making a lifetime commitment,” Gregoire said. “For all couples, a state marriage license is very important. It gives them the right to enter into a marriage contract in which their legal interests, and those of their children if any, are protected by well-established civil law.”
“If it’s the right things to do, it’s the right time to do it,” Tharinger said of the legislation.
Tharinger said he doesn’t see gay marriage as a special right, but as an equal right and a civil rights issue.
“I think the governor did a great job of separating out the civil rights issue from any sort of religious or personal issues,” he said. “They’re different. The state and this legislation does not affect or impact individual religious beliefs.”
Van De Wege, who signed on to co-sponsor the House bill, said he came to the conclusion it is discrimination to not allow same-sex couples to be married.
While equal marriage proposals have failed in the past, Van De Wege thinks Washington might be ready now.
“I think people’s views on this has changed over the last couple years,” he said, adding other states have put it in place without bad consequences. “This is not that big of a deal anymore.”
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