Same-sex marriage advocates in Washington State are bracing for a tough battle Wednesday as the Senate faces a floor vote on the governor-backed bill to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples there.
The Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee approved the bill on a narrow 4-3 vote on Thursday. An amendment that would have required sending the law to voters via ballot measure was defeated, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Supporters of the bill believe they have the 25 votes needed to pass the legislation (HB 2516 & SB 6239), but because of the slim majority in support, anything that takes even one “yes” vote away from the bill before Wednesday would jeopardize its future.
Meanwhile, Pam’s House Blend, a gay news blog, reports the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a 7-6 vote Monday, sending the proposed legislation making marriage gender neutral in Washington to the House floor.
“We thank Chair Pedersen and the members of the Judiciary Committee who supported marriage equality today,” said Lacey All, Chair of Washington United for Marriage. “As the bill continues to progress in both chambers in Olympia, it is clear that momentum is on our side. The stories of love, honor, commitment and family that our legislators are hearing from their constituents continue to be the single most important factor that sets us apart from those who oppose this bill.”
If the House passes the bill, as many observers expect, it would then head to Gov. Christine Gregoire’s desk for her signature, which she has indicated she will do. The governor has up to five days after the end of the regular legislative session — which is March 8 — to sign the bill. Opponents wishing to challenge the new law would have until June 6 to collect 120,557 valid signatures needed to qualify a referendum for the November 2012 ballot.
In 2009, Washington became the first state to approve an expansion of partnership rights for gay couples by ballot when a similar legislative measure was forced to referendum. Referendum 71 was approved by 53.15 percent of voters, setting the stage for this marriage battle.
New Hampshire advocates are attempting to stave off an attempt by the Republican legislature to repeal a law extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples in that state, with a vote also expected Wednesday. North Carolina voters will decide in May whether to ban recognition of same-sex relationships permanently in their state constitution and Minnesota voters will decide a similar question in November.
Marriage rights are extended to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington, DC. The New Jersey Legislature will also attempt to pass a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples there this year, while advocates in Maine are preparing to take the question to voters on the November ballot, after voters in 2009 repealed a legislative effort at expanding marriage to include same-sex couples in our most northeast state.