A House committee on Monday advanced a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, and the Senate is expected to vote on its companion bill within days.
The House Judiciary Committee approved its same-sex marriage bill on a party line vote, with seven Democrats voting for it, and six Republicans voting in opposition.
Three Republican amendments were rejected, including one that would have added private businesses and individuals, such as bakers and photographers, to the religious exemption in the measure that doesn’t require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and doesn’t subject them to penalties if they don’t marry gay or lesbian couples.
Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, called the bill “an act of raw political power to modify the definition of marriage.”
“There has been no compelling justification to abandon traditional marriage,” he said.
Opponents of same-sex marriage have already promised a referendum battle at the ballot if the Legislature passes the bill and it’s signed into law.
Sen. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who is sponsoring one of the bills, said Monday that he expects a floor vote on some-sex marriage in the Senate on Wednesday. A Senate committee voted to advance Murray’s bill Friday.
The House bill is set to advance to a fiscal committee, but a date for a hearing has not been set.
The bills have the backing of several prominent Pacific Northwest businesses, including Microsoft, Nike and Starbucks.
If a marriage bill is passed during this legislative session, gay and lesbian couples will be able to be wed beginning in June unless opponents follow through on their threat to file a referendum to challenge it.