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BREAKING NEWS: Washington state House OKs marriage equality bill; governor vows to sign it

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The state House Senate voted 55-43 Wednesday afternoon to legalize same-sex marriage.

On Feb. 1, the state Senate voted 28-21 in favor of marriage equality.

Next up, the bill goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has vowed that she will sign it into law.

During Wednesday’s session, the House swiftly voted down every single amendment offered by Republicans that would have altered the bill.

Then, the floor debate began with Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle. Pedersen shared with his fellow lawmakers about how domestic partnership is not equal to marriage equality, and how it has impacted him and his partner, Eric, and their four children. His heartfelt speech was also punctuated with humor, invoking gentle laughter.

Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, spoke out against marriage equality. Rodne argued that “marriage is about life,” as in procreation, and that gays and lesbians will not gain “validation and acceptance” via marriage. He gave the usual spiel offered by conservatives and the Religious Right, spitting out half-truths and falsehoods.

Rodne, visibly angry, said he took solace that the bill could be undone by a future legislature or at the ballot box. He then plopped down in his seat, a grimace crossing his face.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, smiled at lawmakers as she spoke in favor of “traditional marriage.” She falsely claimed that religious institutions are under attack over this issue.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said the bill was “about couples, about family, about kids, about love and about commitment.” She talked about her partner of 23 years and how they fit too much into the category of soccer moms.

“I’m voting for this bill because it strengthens families,” Jinkins said.

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, quoted Leviticus as a reason to vote against marriage equality. Like Klippert, Rep. Jim McCune cited religious objections, saying that marriages are for procreation and the nurturing of children.

Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, spoke in favor of same-sex marriage and giving people who love each other the same feeling she had when her husband was alive. She disputed a fellow lawmaker’s assertion that marriage was not about equality. Expressing her love for her lesbian daughter, Walsh said she hoped one day that she would be able to throw a wedding for her daughter.

Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, talked about embracing his gay brother and said the every citizen should be guaranteed “liberty and justice for all … equally.”

Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney, D-Seattle, gave an emotional speech and talked about discrimination and the need for equal rights for her two gay sons who have faced harassment that will last a lifetime. She said her son, who has been with his partner for 24 years, deserves full equality.

Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, spoke about how his partner, Mike, makes his life better and how voting for marriage equality is the right thing to do. He, too, addressed religious concerns but said, “I don’t believe there is anything wrong with me, I believe I am exactly the person that God intended.”

The background

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law since 2007, which was expanded to include just about every legal right except marriage in 2009. A referendum to overturn the domestic partnership law was defeated in 2009.

Anti-gay groups have already declared that they will attempt to qualify a referendum to overturn gay marriage in Washington, should the state become the seventh to legalize marriage equality. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont allow same-sex marriage, along with the District of Columbia.

Maryland and New Jersey legislatures are also considering the issue this winter, and a marriage-equality bill was introduced today in the Illinois General Assembly.

Marriage equality supporters in California are trying to get an initiative on the November ballot even as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed that a lower court ruling that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.