LANGLEY — City Councilman Hal Seligson wasn’t willing to let a little progress stop him now.
Seligson had hoped to present his fellow council members with a resolution last week that would put the city squarely in support of a proposed state law that would legalize same-sex marriage. The punishing snowstorm that paralyzed South Whidbey, however, prompted the cancelation of the Jan. 17 council meeting.
In the meantime, state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, the Camano Island Democrat and the holdout vote that would guarantee passage of the measure in the Senate, announced that she would support the law.
Seligson noted the crucial development at Wednesday’s council meeting, but said the city should still make its own voice heard.
“Happily I can say that there has been progress made within the state Legislature, which I don’t think detracts anything from the importance of this local resolution, but indicates that it’s on the right track,” Seligson said.
Langley leaders eagerly lined up in support of the resolution.
“I’m very supportive and very appreciative of Hal bringing this forward,” said Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick.
“I’m also very appreciative of Mary Margaret Haugen’s announcement,” the mayor added.
Kwarsick noted that the city’s leaders had vowed to support the Constitution when they took their oaths of office and its provision of equal rights for all.
“As mayor, I’m very happy to see the council taking this action,” he said.
Praise for Seligson’s resolution was mixed with raves for Haugen, who faced intense public pressure to support the law guaranteeing same-sex marriages, but struggled with her own strong Christian beliefs that view marriage as a vow shared between a man and a woman.
Councilman Bruce Allen said it was a tough decision for Haugen to make.
“This is really against her own personal beliefs,” Allen said.
“She listened and that’s good,” added Councilman Doug Allderdice, referring to the massive public outcry for Haugen to support the law.
Many in the crowd enthusiastically embraced the Langley resolution.
With her partner Eileen Jackson by her side, Mary Stanford told the council they had been together 20 years, and had been married two years ago by the Rev. Kit Ketcham of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island.
Stanford read a letter penned by Ketcham on her behalf.
“As a minister in this county, this community, and a Washington native, I urge you to support equal marriage rights for all couples by voting yes on this resolution to urge our Washington lawmakers to support the marriage equality legislation being considered in Olympia during the current legislative session,” Stanford said.
“Religious faiths have the right to determine for themselves whose marital unions they will sanctify, but the state has no business denying this fundamental civil right to all its citizens. Human rights laws should not go to a vote, as in a referendum; they should become law because it is right.”
“Domestic partnerships are good but they stop short of full equality. They are the equivalent of archaic ‘separate but equal’ laws which have hampered this nation’s progress and cast aspersions on our national character,” she continued.
“Please do your part to end this unfair infringement on our citizens’ civil rights.”
Others also urged the council to stand in support of gay marriage.
“I think it’s incredibly important that this small town make this statement,” said Craig Cyr.
“After 40 years of attending council meetings, I’ve never been prouder of my city government,” added John Norby.
“You should be proud of yourselves,” he told the council.
“I second that motion,” someone in the audience said.
“All in favor?” another asked.
“Aye,” came a happy chorus.
The council then took its own vote, of course, and the resolution was passed unanimously.