Gay-marriage bill passes committee in partisan vote; Senate floor next

Staff writerJanuary 26, 2012 

The controversial bill that would make Washington the seventh state to legally recognize same-sex marriage passed on partisan vote in the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee this morning. The committee rejected on a party-line vote all four amendments offered by Republican Sen. Dan Swecker to provide additional protections for clergy, religious groups and businesses that choose not to provide services related to same-sex marriages.

Senate Bill 6239 had been amended by its Democratic sponsors to clarify protections for church groups, and it now goes to the Senate Rules Committee. The next step is a Senate floor vote, which could take place next week.

Majority Democrats say they have 25 votes – including two Republicans – for passage of the measure. House passage is considered a foregone conclusion.

Voting for the bill in committee were Democratic Sens. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver, Margarita Prentice of Renton, Sharon Nelson of Vashon and Maralyn Chase of Shoreline. Voting no were Sens. Swecker of Rochester, Don Benton of Vancouver, and Pam Roach of Auburn.

Swecker has spoken out against the measure but it appears to have growing support from the public. And major Northwest businesses such as Microsoft and more recently from Starbucks.

At the same time, religious activists have filed an initiative that would undo the law and re-codify the existing definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

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