With the addition of Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen on Monday, the Washington state Senate now has the 25 votes needed to pass a bill endorsed by the Governor extending marriage rights to same-sex couples in that state, according to Pam’s House Blend.
Earlier this month, Gov. Christine Gregoire endorsed a plan to extend the state-level rights of marriage to same-sex couples in Washington, who currently only have access to a voter-approved civil partnerships system.
“Washington United commends and congratulates Sen. Haugen for her support of marriage equality,” said Lacey All, Chair for Washington United for Marriage. “We’ve known for a long time that our stories are powerful, and sharing those stories can change hearts and minds. Hundreds of constituents shared their stories of love, commitment and family with Sen. Haugen, and in doing so convinced her that she was doing the right thing for Washington.”
The news means that the bill is guaranteed passage in both houses, and will proceed to the Governor, who has promised to sign the bill.
In 2009, voters approved Referendum 71 which expanded the rights afforded by couples in civil partnerships in Washington. The original 2007 law was expanded to include almost all of the same state-level rights as married couples under Washington state law, and was the first time in American history that voters had opted to increase rights for same-sex couples through the ballot.
“I know this announcement makes me the so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage,” Haugen said in a statement. “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.”
The announcement came on the same day as the first 10 a.m. hearing on the bill featuring testimony for and against marriage from advocates and opponents across Washington.
“I have waited 17 years to ask this body to consider marriage equality for gay and lesbian families,” said openly gay Democratic Seattle Sen. Ed Murray, who is sponsoring the Senate bill. “I realize the issue of marriage for our families is emotional and divisive. It touches what each of us holds most dear, our families.”