Update: We have the video, here.
At 7:58 PM local time tonight, the Washington State Senate passed a same-sex marriage equality bill by a higher than anticipated 28-21 margin. The bill had been gaining traction over the past week in the Senate, with an expected 26 votes earned before debate began tonight at 6:33 PM local time. The same-sex marriage bill now moves on to the House, where passage by a wide margin is highly-expected. Once both versions are passed and reconciled, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire — who initiated this year’s marriage equality move — will sign it. The bill’s sponsor in the Senate was Democratic Senator Ed Murray of Seattle.
During the debate, the usual “concerns” for “religious liberties” came up and were taken into account. Also debated were allowing merchants, small businesses, and others who make their living off the marriage industry — photographers and justices of the peace, for example — to deny service to same-sex couples getting married. That amendment was denied.
Also not adopted was the measure that would have put the same-sex marriage bill to a public referendum. That measure was not passed either. Voters still can — and most likely will — place marriage on the ballot in a referendum with enough signatures. We can expect NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, and other anti-gay hate groups to fund these efforts.
Assuming this first step is met equally in the House, Governor Christine Gregoire will sign a bill into law making Washington the seventh state to honor the rights of same-sex couples to marry, an the eight jurisdiction, including Washington, D.C.
Washington state has had a “defense of marriage” law banning same-sex marriage since 1998.
As the vote loomed, conservative Democratic Sen. Brian Hatfield committed his support to the measure — becoming the 26th senator to back it. Hatfield said in a statement to The Associated Press that it has been one of the most difficult issues he has ever been associated with. He believes his vote in either direction would alienate him from longtime friends.
“This is a measure that has emotionally torn at me as I have wrestled with my choice,” Hatfield said, noting that he has spent months in thought and prayer on the issue. He said that while private citizens can ultimately oppose gay marriage, he as a legislator cannot because it would be viewed as discrimination.
Hatfield still supports a public vote on the issue.
The Slog live blogged the entire debate here.
Image of Washington Senate gallery during tonight’s debate, by Joe Mirabella, via Twitter.
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