Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 10, 2012

Legislative Junkie: On Location for the Marriage Vote

Editor’s Note: This is another fabulous update from our Legislative Junkie, who is reporting from the Capital Building.

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

In a 60-day session, no one day is simple. The breaking news that is cheered or bemoaned by any given constituency may go unnoticed by another. Wandering the halls of buildings on the hill you may see, in one day, environmentalists in green scarves, union members in purple shirts, or bankers in their pinstriped suits, all doing grassroots lobbying.*

Today the legislative building was thick with advocates for people with developmental disabilities, teachers wearing stickers against 6442 (a complex bill consolidating and restructuring health care purchasing for school district employees), an adorable choir of grade-school kids singing “God Bless America,” and, of course, people out to cheer the house’s passage of marriage equality.

 More than an hour before the scheduled vote at 1:00, spectators were gathering on both sides of the House gallery: adorable older gay and lesbian couples, young hip queens, a man with his too-cute-for words infant swaddled close to his chest.

To pass the time some read or chatted with their neighbors. Stickers were passed around – pink and round for PFLAG, white and green and square for Washington United for Marriage (no anti-equality buttons, featuring the male and female bathroom symbols, were visible). A tweenage girl bounced and twirled in the gallery aisles.

Periodically, legislators came through to press the flesh. First, Senator Steve Litzow (R-41) and Representative Sam Hunt (D-22), both supporters of marriage equality, passed through to smiles, thank you’s, and hugs. Then Representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), the House’s prime sponsor of marriage equality, and Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-27), the state legislature’s first out lesbian, came to the gallery to appreciative applause.

It is impossible to describe the mood without metaphors about electricity. The mounting current of giddy anticipation was not lessened by the patriotic songs which swelled periodically from the rotunda: “America the Beautiful” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Julia Ward Howe, the abolitionist and poet who penned the latter song’s lyrics, worked her whole life for racial justice, for equal rights for women, and for peace. Hearing it in this new context, moments before the elected representatives of Washington State take the floor to declare and demand equal recognition for the love of all couples, is stirring.

House Speaker Pro Tem Jim Moeller (D-49), the highest ranking out gay legislator in House leadership, opened debate by asking everyone in the gallery to refrain from outbursts, welcoming everyone to “the people’s house.”

 After a string of amendments offered by Republicans, all of which failed, the debate itself carried forward with welcome civility and warmth. Representative Pedersen quoted the recent decision of the 9th Circuit court that found California’s odious Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Representative Phyllis Kenney (D-46) shared stories about her two gay sons. Representative Hunt dedicated his vote to the late Cal Anderson, Washington’s first openly gay legislator, whose senate seat Ed Murray now occupies.

At one point, Representative Mike Armstrong (R-12) left his seat to visit with Representative Jinkins. The meeting was clearly cordial and affectionate – they shared a warm hug before Armstrong returned to his seat to vote no.

 Representative Mark Hargrove (R-47), speaking in opposition, went deepest into silliness in his speech, citing a Super Bowl ad about a man marrying bacon** before inadvertently making the best argument for marriage equality. Representative Hargrove asked his fellow legislators how they would feel if their kids wanted to marry someone of the same sex. “Would you really feel that that’s just as good? Would you really be just as happy for them?” The testimony of other legislators, before and after, answered the representative’s question clearly.

Representative Jason Overstreet, (R-Leviticus) repeatedly expressed his concern that the state of Washington could not redefine something that it did not define in the first place. (Apparently Representative Overstreet is not familiar with RCW 26.04.010, which does in fact define marriage as between one man and one woman. This bill amended that statute).

 But Representative Maureen Walsh (R-16) was the big star of the day. She spoke lovingly of her late husband, saying, “I don’t miss the sex… Well, I certainly miss it, but it is certainly not the aspect of that relationship…that I really, really, genuinely wish I still had.” She added, of her gay daughter, “someday, I’d like to throw a wedding for that kid!”

When the final vote was cast, 55-43, two Republicans – Representatives Walsh and Glenn Anderson (R-5) – voted “aye,” and three Democrats – Representatives Mark Miloscia (D-30), Chris Hurst (D-31), and Steve Kirby (D-29) – voted “no.”

After the vote, the crowed erupted in cheers and applause. Senators and staff poured onto the floor in a sea of hugs and kisses. Governor Gregoire, who had been lurking in the wings with her husband and a number of senators, gave a thumbs up to the gallery.

Reporters clustered around the gay and lesbian couples, asking them about their wedding plans.

 Governor Gregoire says she will sign the bill before Valentine’s Day.

* I’m kidding, of course. Bankers hardly ever come down and lobby. They hire people to do that.

** To be fair, comparing man-on-man marriage to man-on-bacon marriage seems less offensive than some other notorious comparisons. It’s yet to be seen whether Hargrove will receive the Savage treatment.


Responses

  1. Thanks for the joyful coverage, well done.

  2. Sen Cal Anderson was also the Sec. of the WA State Democratic Central Committee and has a park named after him in seattle’s capital hill area.


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