Gregoire supports same-sex marriage

Laws: She will seek change this session

ALEXIS KRELL; Staff writerJanuary 5, 2012 

State Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma says her 11-year-old son, Wulf, wants her to have a wedding cake with green frosting, and that he’s asked to take time off school for the celebration.

The date is not on the calendar yet, but after Gov. Chris Gregoire lent public support for same-sex marriage on Wednesday, it no longer seems as far-fetched as it once did in Washington state.

Gregoire announced that after what she called a personal journey, she will request legislation in the session that starts next week – her first public support for same-sex marriage in her last regular session as the state’s chief executive.

“I think like many people in the state, she started in one place and she’s evolved a lot in her thinking,” said Jinkins, a Democrat and the first openly lesbian representative to serve in the Legislature.

Jinkins attended Wednesday’s announcement with Laura Wulf, her partner of almost 25 years.

“What’s happening is a real reflection of how this state has moved,” Jinkins said.

Gregoire in the past has publicly supported giving gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples but not legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2007, she signed a domestic partnership law that secured rights such as hospital visitation and inheritance when there is no will. Voters ratified an “everything but marriage” law, Referendum 71, in 2009.

Washington would be the seventh state to legalize gay marriage. The effort would not require religious institutions to perform same-sex unions.

Opponents of the effort argue that lawmakers should focus their time in the short 60-day session on resolving the state’s $1.5 billion budget shortfall.

Supporters say they can do both, although Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, told reporters they are short votes in the Senate, which has a slimmer Democratic majority than the House.

Murray, who is openly gay, said conversations are under way to gain further support and that they already have more than one Republican senator’s vote. He declined to say how many.

“This bill will not pass unless there is a bipartisan vote,” Murray said.

Gregoire said her support for marriage equality came after a struggle with her religious beliefs.

“This was all about my personal faith,” said Gregoire, a Catholic. “I came to understand my religion is one thing, but as governor of the state and as a human being, I believe in equality. And I don’t respect a state who discriminates.”

Leaders in the religious community have reached different conclusions on the question of marriage and morality. One Tacoma pastor says he’s opposed to same-sex marriages, regardless of his church’s discretion not to perform them under Gregoire’s proposal.

“Wrong is wrong, no matter whether it comes from the church or the government,” said Rev. Arthur C. Banks, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Tacoma, in an interview Wednesday. “There’s no way you can dress it up and make it right.”

Associated Ministries, a Tacoma-based Christian ecumenical organization, isn’t taking a position supporting or opposing legalizing gay marriage. But Executive Director Rev. Chris Morton noted Wednesday: “Any perspective that includes demeaning another human being is not acceptable.”

Lawmakers told reporters they would not stand in the way of the measure going to voters for final approval and are preparing for a statewide campaign.

“If the citizens want to put this on the ballot, they have that constitutional right,” Murray said. Murray said he will introduce the bill in the Senate next week.

Gregoire’s stance has Jinkins and others optimistic that, by one route or another, same-sex marriage could become legal in Washington.

Embracing her partner following Gregoire’s announcement, Jinkins asked jokingly: “Is this the proposal?”

She has assured their son that if the ceremony isn’t on a weekend, taking the day off school should be just fine.

Alexis Krell: 360-943-7123 alexis.krell@thenewstribune.com

Staff writer Steve Maynard contributed to this report.

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