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House review of Senate same-sex marriage bill advances through committee hearing Monday

OLYMPIA — Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-27th, Tacoma) couldn’t help but notice a uniquely personal connection as she testified before her peers in support of the Marriage Equality Act on Monday.

“I know, obviously, this whole thing doesn’t revolve around us, but it was just kind of serendipitous that this hearing happened on our 23rd anniversary,” said Jinkins, the House’s only openly lesbian member.

“It’s very powerful to sit and listen to my partner talk about our history and what it’s like for her and to see how proud our son is and how excited he is about the possibility of us being able to marry,” she said.

Jinkins, who sat on a panel with her partner Laura Wulf and their 11-year old son Wulf Jinkins, said she was pleased with the House Committee on Judiciary’s recommendation for the passage of ESSB 6239. The bill, which was passed by the Senate last week, would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

“It’s a good day. It’s a great day,” said Jinkins.

Opponents of the bill, such as Rep. Matt Shea (R-4th, Spokane Valley) do not share in Jinkins’ excitement.

“The fact that this bill doesn’t exempt business and individuals from any sorts of lawsuits for refusing to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony, I think, is very problematic,” said Shea, a Spokane Valley Republican from the 4th District and the assistant ranking minority member of the House Committee on Judiciary.

Shea also pointed to preserving absolute religious freedom — along with the inclusion of a clause requiring a referendum — as major points of contention. Republicans tried to address those issues with amendments to the bill, but could not garner enough support for their passage.

Jinkins said the crux of the issue is much simpler than opponents make it appear.

“I think that, if you look historically at the way these things have rolled out, the opposition frequently focuses on ways to try and confuse and obfuscate issues,” she said. “I think we continue to try and make it clear that it’s about families; it’s about strengthening families. So that’s how I expect it to roll out, but we’ll see.”

Per House rules, though in a departure from normal procedure, ESSB 6239 will bypass the Rules Committee and be scheduled directly on the floor calendar, according to speaker’s attorney Cathy Maynard. She said that debate is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Shea noted that there will likely be a renewed effort on the floor to get a referendum requirement added to the legislation, though it is unlikely that amendment would be passed.

However, he said, gathering the signatures necessary to force a statewide vote shouldn’t be difficult.

“It was made pretty clear by several people on the panel that this would go to a referendum if it does pass the Legislature,” Shea said.

 

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