Beautiful news to end your day. Washington's Democratic-controlled legislature now has enough votes to legalize marriage equality.
As legislators held their first public hearings on the issue, a previously undecided Democratic senator announced her support. Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen's would cast the deciding 25th vote—and Washington is poised to become the seventh state to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married.
"I’ve had hundreds of very heartfelt, sincere letters," Haugen told KING 5 News. "I’ve had letters that are threatening and other letters that aren’t so pleasant, but I’m Christian, and I don’t believe it’s my right to judge other people. I really try to live by the Golden Rule, and I believe I’m following my faith at this point. It’s the right thing to do."
In her statement, Haugen adds:
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. 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. ...
Not everyone will agree with my position. I understand and respect that. I also trust that people will remember that we need to respect each other's beliefs. All of us enjoy the benefits of being Americans, but none of us holds a monopoly on what it means to be an American. Ours is truly a big tent, and while the tent may grow and shrink according to the political winds of the day, it should never shrink when it comes to our rights as individuals.
Read the eloquent statement AFTER THE JUMP ....
"The state House is widely expected to have enough support to pass gay marriage, and Gov. Chris Gregoire publicly endorsed the proposal earlier this month," adds the AP. "If a marriage bill is passed during this legislative session, gay and lesbian couples will be able to get married starting in June unless opponents file a referendum to challenge it. Opponents have already said they will."
Washington has recognized valid out-of-state same-sex marriages since March 2011. The state has recognized domestic partnerships since 2007 and an "everything but marriage" law since 2009. The Evergreen State would become the nation's seventh state to legalize marriage equality and would join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia.
Read Sen. Haugen's statement AFTER THE JUMP ...
"For several weeks now, I have heard from the people of my district. They’ve shared what’s in their hearts and minds. I have received many letters, emails, phone calls, very heartfelt, from both sides of the issue. I’ve also received a number of very negative comments from both sides.
"For some people, this is a simple issue. I envy them. It has not been simple or easy for me. 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. 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.
For as long as I have been alive, living in my country has been about having the freedom to live according to our own personal and religious beliefs, and having people respect that freedom.
Not everyone will agree with my position. I understand and respect that. I also trust that people will remember that we need to respect each other’s beliefs. All of us enjoy the benefits of being Americans, but none of us holds a monopoly on what it means to be an American. Ours is truly a big tent, and while the tent may grow and shrink according to the political winds of the day, it should never shrink when it comes to our rights as individuals.
"Do I respect people who feel differently? Do I not feel they should have the right to do as they want? My beliefs dictate who I am and how I live, but I don’t see where my believing marriage is between a man and a woman gives me the right to decide that for everyone else.
I’ve weighed many factors in arriving at this decision, and one of them was erased when the legislation heard today included an amendment to clearly provide for the rights of a church to choose not to marry a couple if that marriage contradicts the church’s view of its teachings. That’s important, and it helped shape my decision.
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. I will vote in favor of marriage equality.
I know this announcement makes me the so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage. That’s neither here nor there. If I were the first or the seventh or the 28th vote, my position would not be any different. I happen to be the 25th because I insisted on taking this much time to hear from my constituents and to sort it out for myself, to reconcile my religious beliefs with my beliefs as an American, as a legislator, and as a wife and mother who cannot deny to others the joys and benefits I enjoy.
This is the right vote and it is the vote I will cast when this measure comes to the floor."