Entries from: Washington

Gay man chosen to lead Wash. state Senate

ed murraySen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, will become just the second openly LGBT person to lead a state senate chamber after his Democratic colleagues tonight chose him as majority leader of the Washington State Senate.  Murray, 57, was first elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving 11 years in the Wash. House of Representatives.  He was a leading voice in favor of passage of the state’s marriage equality bill, which voters affirmed last week.

“We have work to do in Olympia – prioritizing education, creating jobs for the middle class, and ensuring Washingtonians have the health care they need. And one of our challenges in a closely divided chamber is to ensure that the Senate is able to fulfill its obligation to govern the state, in tandem with Gov.-elect Jay Inslee and the House. These are not simple challenges, but they are solvable. We can find solutions that work for all of Washington,” Murray said in a release tonight.

“We congratulate Sen. Murray for this wonderful recognition of his leadership skills and dedication to the people of Washington.  He has proven that openly LGBT Americans have much to offer their communities as leaders and representatives, and his commitment to open and honest public service has set an example for LGBT youth,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

Murray joins Assembly Speaker John Perez in California, House Speaker Gordon D. Fox in Rhode Island and incoming House Speaker Mark Ferrandino in Colorado as the only currently serving openly gay legislators to land their chambers’ top jobs.  In Oregon, out lesbian Rep. Tina Kotek is expected to be elected Speaker of the House this week after Democrats won control in last week’s elections.

The first openly gay State Senate leader was the late Allan Spear of Minnesota.  He was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1972 and came out as gay in 1974.  Spear served a total of 28 years in the senate, retiring in 2000. He was President of the Senate from 1992 to 2000.

A big day for marriage equality

gregoireIt’s another day of progress on the marriage front, as the New Jersey Senate passes a marriage equality bill, Gov. Christine Gregoire signs Washington’s marriage bill into law and Freedom to Marry launches a grassroots campaign to add marriage equality to the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform language.

A bill upgrading New Jersey’s civil unions law to full marriage equality passed on a 24-16 bipartisan vote in the State Senate, and a similar vote in the State House is set for Thursday.  Gov. Chris Christie has promised to veto the measure when it reaches his desk, but proponents have until January 2014 to try to override his veto.

Marriage equality is now the law of the land in Washington, as Gov. Gregoire (pictured), flanked by openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers and their partners, today signed legislation and predicted the state’s voters would uphold the new law if opponents force the question onto a statewide ballot.  ”Washington will say yes because a family is a family,” said Gregoire.  “It is time to give our loving gay and lesbian couples a chance to have a married life in the state of Washington.”

Freedom to Marry, a national advocacy group, today began collecting signatures on a petition it hopes will influence the Democratic Party to embrace full marriage rights for same-sex couples as it develops its 2012 platform language.  ”It is now time that the national Democratic Party formally recognize the freedom to marry as a core value by including it in its party platform to be ratified in September at the Democratic National Convention,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director at Freedom to Marry.

Washington marriage bill heads to governor’s desk

pedersenThe Washington House of Representatives today gave final passage to a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. The vote came one week after the bill easily passed in the Senate.  Now the legislation heads to the desk of Gov. Christine Gregoire, who has promised to sign it.

As in the Senate, Washington’s openly gay and lesbian lawmakers led the effort to pass the bill in the House.  The openly gay chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, was a key figure in moving the legislation to the floor.  Earlier this week Pedersen had to sit through a hearing on the measure that drew a number of anti-gay witnesses whose testimony veered into strange territory, according to this report.

Washington is now on track to become the 7th U.S. state (plus the District of Columbia) to allow gays and lesbians to marry, though the law’s earliest effective date, June 7, could be delayed if marriage equality opponents gather enough signatures to force the issue onto a statewide ballot.

In 2009, Washington state voters affirmed a bill that extended domestic partner rights and benefits to same-sex couples.  Referendum 71, which asked voters to approve or reject the bill passed by the state legislature, was passed with 53% of the vote.  But a new poll finds Washingtonians almost evenly divided on whether they would vote to approve the marriage equality bill passed today, with 47% saying they’d support the bill and 46% planning to vote to overturn it.

Victory Fund applauds Washington Senate on marriage vote

murray shiosakiThe Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund tonight congratulated openly gay State Sen. Edward Murray and his colleagues in the Washington State Senate on the passage of Senate Bill 6239, which would end marriage discrimination in the state. The bill now moves to the Washington House of Representatives, where five openly gay and lesbian lawmakers will ask their colleagues to follow the Senate and vote to give them the right to marry. Gov. Christine Gregoire has vowed to sign the bill.

“Tonight’s vote is a victory for fairness in Washington, and for Senator Ed Murray, who has worked so hard for so long to make life better for LGBT Washingtonians,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “When this bill is finally signed into law, Ed and Michael, his partner of 20 years, will finally have realized the equality under state law Ed has fought for since he was first elected to the legislature in 1995. The Victory Fund is proud to support all six openly LGBT members of the Washington State Legislature, and we offer our deepest congratulations and thanks to Ed and to everyone in the Washington United for Marriage coalition that made tonight’s vote possible,” said Wolfe.

In the House, openly gay and lesbian lawmakers who are leading efforts to pass the measure include State Reps. Jamie Pedersen, Laurie Jinkins, Marko Liias, James Moeller, and David Upthegrove.

“Ending marriage discrimination in Washington will take the courage of many individuals, groups and allies, but we are especially proud of the openly gay and lesbian lawmakers whose honesty and example helped inspire their colleagues to support this bill. From the late Sen. Cal Anderson to the six who serve today, all have educated their colleagues, introduced their partners, authored legislation and spoke passionately about their own lives on the floors of the State House and Senate, and that has made a tremendous difference,” said Wolfe.

Photo:  Sen. Ed Murray and his partner, Michael Shiosaki, testifying in favor of SB 6239.  (Washington Senate Photo Services / Northwest News Network)

Wash. governor backs marriage rights for gays, lesbians

gregoireGov. Christine Gregoire, D-Wash., today has come out in support of legislation that will allow same-sex couples to legally marry in Washington state.   Late last year a group of openly gay state lawmakers announced they would seek to pass the legislation this year.  “Today I stand with them in the fight for equality,” Gregoire said today, specifically mentioning Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, who represent parts of Seattle.

“It is time.  It’s the right thing to do.  And I will introduce the bill to make it happen,” Gregoire said at a news conference.  “It is time in Washington State for marriage equality.”

Gregoire compared current laws banning marriage for gay couples to those that banned interracial marriage in the past.