Washington is a step closer to becoming the seventh state to approve gay marriage. The proposal passed a House Committee in Olympia on Monday.
The House Judiciary Committee passed HB 2516 on a 7-6 party line vote. There was no public hearing before the committee prior to this vote. Testimony had been given earlier in the session.
Three amendments were put forward by Republicans. All three were rejected by the Democratic majority.
Representative Matt Shea of Spokane wanted to protect private businesses from any legal action should they want to deny services to gay couples based on their religious beliefs.
“The way this bill is written right now if you are a limo driver, if you are a baker, if you are a florist, if you own a hotel, if you own a catering business you could potentially be subjected to massive new lawsuits,” Representative Shea told the committee. “This has happened everywhere that these type of provisions have been implemented.”
Representative Jay Rodne of Snoqualmie asked that the proposal be put to voters before the legislature approves it.
“It’s an act of, really, raw political power if you will, to modify the definition of marriage as this body is contemplating this session,” he said. “I think that calls for a vote of the people by way of a referendum.”
The third amendment would have required people to live in Washington for six months before a marriage license could be issued.
This bill has one more House committee hearing where the dollars and cents will be discussed. It’s expected to pass that easily and then be put to a full vote on the House Floor.
The Senate bill will be voted on Wednesday. It has the votes to pass there.
The governor is expected to sign it into law if it clears both chambers as expected.
Opponents would then have until June to collect enough signatures to put it up to a public vote, and they are already working on it.