Until today, the fate of marriage equality in Washtington State rested on one vote and three undecided Democrats, Sens. Brian Hatfield, Mary Margaret Haugen and Paull Shinn, and three Republicans also who had yet to decide. Today bringing equality to the finish line turned out to be Democratic State Senator Haugen, from the 10th legislative district, Camano Island.
Marriage Equality USA and other organizations nationwide applauded today’s news from the Washington State Senator when she announced that she will vote for marriage equality in the Evergreen State. Her vote is the 25th and decisive vote that will ensure the passage of the freedom to marry in the Washington Legislature.
The Senator placed the following message on her website:
“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.”
“Fair-minded Americans everywhere are celebrating with Washington State today, as Senator Haugen’s announcement ensures passage of equal marriage rights in Washington,” said Stuart Gaffney, Marriage Equality USA Media Director. “2012 is already shaping up to be another great year for loving, committed couples from coast to coast.”
Passage is ensured; while the assembly must still vote, it will pass through with ease, with a strong majority of yes votes and WA State Governor Chris Gregoire has pursued the legislation with full support, noting she will sign the bill into law.
Washington stay will be the only West Coast State that will currently have legal same-sex marriage; while California’s Ninth Circuit on prop 8 is still pending.
by Melanie Nathan
Facebook: Melanie Nathan Advocacy