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Governor to introduce bill to legalize same-sex marriage | Update
Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Wednesday she will introduce a bill in the legislative session that starts next week to make same-sex marriage legal in Washington state.
“It’s the right thing to do, and it is time,” the governor said at a news conference in Olympia attended by many gay rights advocates who applauded her announcement.
If the bill passes, Washington would be the seventh state where same-sex marriage is
legal, joining New York, Mass-
achusetts, Connecticut, Ver-mont, New Hampshire and Iowa.
Gregoire compared the fight to end discrimination based on sexual orientation to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s against racial discrimination.
She noted the incremental progress that the state has made in passing legislation over the past several years to ensure equal rights for gays and lesbians, and the voters’ approval in 2009 of Referendum 71, the so-called “everything but marriage” bill that provided all the same legal rights for registered domestic partners that heterosexual married couples have.
Gregoire also spoke about her personal journey over the past seven years that culminated in her decision to push for marriage equality. She said her generation needs to learn from younger generations who are more accepting of same-sex relationships and children of same-sex parents.
She also stressed that a marriage equality bill would not limit any religion’s freedom to decide who can marry within a particular church or faith.
But she made it clear that the state “should not deny citizens a marriage license based on their sexual orientation.”
Pastor Ann Adkinson of Colby United Methodist Church in Southworth was pleased by the governor’s stance.
“I’m glad to see this step toward civil marriage equality for all Washington state residents, who are my neighbors and friends,” she said in an email Wednesday. “When loving same-sex couples and their children have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples and their children, we will have a more fair and just community.”
Adkinson is one of the ministers who signed the Wash-ington State Faith Leaders’ Declaration of Support for Marriage Equality, which states in part that “The state should not deny individuals their fundamental civil right to marry whom they love.”
She said her calling as a minister is “to follow Christ, who commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. To me, that means standing up for equal rights for my neighbors.”
While acknowledging that the Legislature has an urgent budget crisis to address and “this is going to be one of the most difficult legislative sessions in history,” Gregoire nonetheless insisted that a marriage equality bill can and should be passed.
Asked if her decision not to run for re-election allowed her to publicly support same-sex marriage, the governor said her decision was personal.
“I can’t sit here any longer and say it’s OK to discriminate,” Gregoire said. “It has nothing to do with elections and politics and everything to do with where I am as a human being.”