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Haugen says she’ll support gay marriage | UPDATE

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen on her decision: “This issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.”  - Brian Kelly / Record file
Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen on her decision: “This issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.”
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Record file

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen’s decision to support same-sex marriage is getting a grateful reaction in Langley.

Haugen, a 10th District lawmaker, said she would vote for a proposed law that would make Washington the seventh state in the union to allow same-sex marriages.

“Senator Haugen’s very welcomed decision is a ‘profile in courage’ moment; when someone in elected office hears their constituents on both sides of a serious issue, considers it deeply, and votes their conscience despite possible political ramifications,” said Langley City Councilman Hal Seligson.

Seligson said he would move forward with his plan to put a resolution before the Langley City Council at its meeting this week that states the city’s support for legalizing same-sex marriage.

Council members had been expected to vote on the resolution last week, but their meeting was postponed until Wednesday because of the snowstorm.

Haugen was the crucial 25th vote needed to guarantee the passage of Senate Bill 6239. Haugen was the holdout vote on the Democratic side, and the Camano Island lawmaker had been under intense public pressure to support the law after residents jammed a town hall meeting in Bayview and pressed her to support the proposal earlier this month.

In a statement after a hearing on the law Monday, Haugen said she had heard from many people who support same-sex marriage, but said supporting the proposed law was not an easy decision for her to make.

“For some people, this is a simple issue. I envy them. It has not been simple or easy for me,” Haugen said.

“To some degree, this is generational. Years ago I took exception to my parents’ beliefs on certain social issues, and today my children take exception to some of mine,” she continued. “Times change, even if it makes us uncomfortable. I think we should all be uncomfortable sometime. None of us knows everything, and it’s important to have our beliefs questioned. Only one being in this world is omniscient, and it’s not me.

“I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs. It’s not always easy to do that. For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.

“But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.”

Haugen said she made up her mind after an amendment to the law was offered that would allow a church to refuse to marry a couple if that marriage contradicted the church’s teachings.

“That’s important, and it helped shape my decision,” she said.

Haugen also repeated her earlier wish that the issue go to voters.

“My preference would be to put this issue on the ballot and give all Washingtonians the opportunity to wrestle with this issue, to search their hearts as I have, and to make the choice for themselves. But I do not know that there are the votes to put it to a ballot measure. So, forced to make a choice, my choice is to allow all men and women in our state to enjoy the same privileges that are so important in my life,” she said.

Critics of the new law worked feverishly Monday to marshal support against the proposal.

Joe Fuiten, an evangelical pastor and the head of Bothell’s Cedar Park Church, bombarded South Whidbey residents and others across the 10th District with robo-calls Monday afternoon, asking them to speak out against the law. The robo-calls gave people the opportunity to be transferred directly to Haugen’s office so they could voice their displeasure with the lawmaker.

Fuiten, a former campaign organizer for Pres. George W. Bush, has called the gay marriage bill “democracy Soviet style.”

In his robo-calls to local residents, Fuiten asked for help in defeating the measure.

“We need your help,” Fuiten said during the call.

“As you know, the state Legislature has already given same-sex domestic partners all the rights and benefits of marriage. Now they want to create the so-called gay marriage, as well. I’m concerned this bill will impact your child’s education, rights of conscience and the freedom of religion for churches like mine and yours. Your voice is very important in this issue, because your state senator is a crucial vote. Unless they hear from thousands of their constituents who do not support this effort, this bill could pass any day.

“I’d like you to transfer you right now, free of charge, to the office of Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, so you can encourage them not to redefine marriage. If you would like to be connected to your legislator’s office, free of charge, please press 1 now.”

The proposed law now moves to an executive session Thursday in the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Tribal Relations & Elections.

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