Wording of the new marriage equality bill

Jan 14, 2012, 1:23 PM | Updated: 2:52 pm

A Senate bill, introduced at the request of Governor Chris Gregoire, redefines marriage in Washington as a civil contract between two persons.

Lawmakers suggest it’s time to call it “marriage equality” because the words “gay marriage” are never referenced in the eight page Senate Bill 6239 (House Bill 2516) filed in Olympia Friday.

Gregoire“It is the intend of this act to end discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation in Washington, to ensure that all persons in this state may enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms, while also respecting the religious freedom of clergy,” the legislation states.

Religious leaders are not required to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, and the bill makes it clear that people do not have grounds to sue any minister, priest or church official who refuses to perform a marriage.

The bill alters the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) to read: Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female two persons who have attained the age of eighteen years, and who are otherwise capable.

It strikes the following section from our state’s legal code regarding marriage: The legislature finds that same sex couples, because they cannot marry in this state, do not automatically have the same access that married couples have to certain rights and benefits, such as those associated with hospital visitation, health care decision making, organ donation decisions, and other issues related to illness, incapacity and death.

Washington’s domestic partnerships law was designed to extend health care rights to all same-sex couples, but some said they had problems with hospital visitations depending on a facility’s policy. With the above paragraph deleted from our state’s law, there should be no issues for same-sex couples when it comes to health benefits and rights.

The legislation is expected to clear the House, and the Senate will likely have the 25 votes need to approve the measure. The new law would take effect June 30, 2014.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire posted this photo on her Facebook page of rainbow cupcakes, from Cupcake Royale, sent in support of her marriage equality bill.

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Wording of the new marriage equality bill