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    House marriage vote and the GOP mom who backed it

    Gay marriage supporters cheered. But big money and advice is coming from out of state to help undo the legislature's votes and eradicate Republican senators who voted to support it.

    Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla

    Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla State House of Representatives

    Sen. Jamie Pedersen

    Sen. Jamie Pedersen Credit: State House of Representatives

    Maureen Walsh is a 51-year-old widow, Walla Walla restaurant owner, and mother of three.

    And she's a Republican representative for Eastern Washington's 16th District.

    Two years ago, Walsh found out she's the mother of a lesbian. "By God, I wanna throw a wedding for that kid. Domestic partnership — to me, that sounds like a Merry Maids franchise," Walsh said. 

    On Wednesday, she told the Washington House of Representatives about her 23-year marriage and about missing her husband, who died six years ago.

    She doesn't really miss the sex . . . well, maybe she does a bit. "But I really miss that incredible bond I had with another human being. How can I deny that incredible bond to any individual?" she asked.

    "To me, that seems incredibly cruel. ... This is about equality. Why in the world would we not allow legal rights to these individuals?"

    Easy House passage was expected, but there is likely to be brutal political fighting before the outcome is actually decided in an expected referendum campaign to block the law. Already, a national right-wing group has pledged to bring down Walsh's Republican colleagues who supported gay marriage in the Senate last week.

    Still, cheers erupted from the galleries just after the state House of Representatives voted 55-43 — mostly along party lines — to legalize gay marriage in Washngton. Walsh and Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, crossed party lines to vote for the bill. Democrat Reps. Christopher Hurst of Enumclaw, Steve Kirby of Tacoma, and Mark Miloscia of Federal Way voted against legalizing gay marriage. 

    The Senate passed the same bill last week 28-21. The House has had a solid pro-gay marriage majority for a long time. Gov. Chris Gregoire announced on Jan. 4 that she would sign a gay marriage bill — a bill that legalizes gay marriage but allows individual churches and ministers to decline to conduct such marriages because of their religious beliefs. That signing is expected next week.

    The bill's passage has been the result of patient, incremental gains mapped out of Rep. Jamie Pedersen and Sen. Ed Murray, both Seattle Democrats, over many years.

    "I never had any question that this would happen," said Pedersen after Wednesday's vote. "I never expected it to happen this soon."  Pedersen expressed hope that many elderly people will be able to marry their same-sex partners in the twilight of their lives. 

    "Domestic partnership is a pale and inadequate subsitute for marriage. ... 'Marriage' is the word that society uses to describe a long-term domestic partnership," said Pedersen, a lifelong Lutheran who has a 10-year relationship with his partner, Eric Pedersen. The pair has four sons — Tryg, Leif, Erik, and Anders. Kneeling before a beloved to propose a domestic partnership is not the same as kneeling to propose marriage, Rep. Pedersen said. 

    Pedersen talked about gays and lesbians not being considered spouses during times of grief and worry when dealing with emergency rooms and funeral homes. Even TurboTax software doesn't recognize domestic partners on joint tax returns, he said. Washington currently has roughly 19,000 domestic partnerships. 

    Wednesday's House debate lasted roughly two-and-half hours, more than twice as long as in the Senate last week.

    "We were not sent here by the people to redefine marriage," said Rep Jim McCune, R-Graham.

    Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, said the difference between a marriage and domestic partnerships is tiny, subtle, and hard to define. "Are we really going to undermine the institution of marriage because of an inconvenience?" he said. 

    "Marriage is about life," Rodne said. "It's about joining a man and a woman as husband and wife and as a mother and father and linking them to their natural-born children. ... It's not about self-actualization or self-identification. For the first time in Washington's history, marriage will serve to sever relations between a child and one of the child's biological parents. This bill is really an exercise in raw political power. ... It's progressive engineering in its most extreme and damaging form."

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    Posted Thu, Feb 9, 8:21 a.m. Inappropriate

    Maureen Walsh is one strong woman. She has already handily beat back a serious right wing challenge to her years long outstanding record on civil rights.

    The people of Walla Walla County and the Tri-Cities respect her integrity, her grit, her smarts, her hard work and one-of-a-kind charm and goodness - and her conservative politics.

    These threatened campaigns by national organizations against Republicans who stand down the backwaters of the party are likely to backfire. They appear to be carpetbagging operations to elect extreme single-issue candidates by outside special interests.

    The referendum organizers have their work cut out for them. If yesterday's debate and the quotes from the anti-equality crowd in this post are any guide, the roots of their opposition will be exposed as a hard wired impulse to impose the beliefs of some religions on everyone's civil rights. Or, in some cases, just ambitious politicians (office holders and operatives) seeking to make their names among people who are stuck in time.


    Posted Thu, Feb 9, 10:22 a.m. Inappropriate

    What's next? Marrying one's parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, child, sibling, cousin, or even 2 same-gender heterosexuals marrying for tax and benefits reasons? Forget the religious dictum: a clear concise legal statement of the traditional definition of marriage is called for along with all the presumptions that can and can't be rebutted. 500,000 referendum signatures should be the goal.


    Posted Thu, Feb 9, 2:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    The National Organization for Marriage . . . Roughly 88 percent of its 2010 revenue — $8.1 million — came from five contributors whose names were not listed on the 990 form.
    When asked why the House, Senate, and governor ended up strongly supporting gay marriage if a supposed majority of Washingtonians oppose it, Backholm contended that the legislators and Gregoire are doing it to receive significant financial donations from special interests. "It's about the money. They get lots of money to do things like this," Backholm said.
    A classic example of someone attributing their own motives to someone else.

    Steve E.

    Posted Thu, Feb 9, 8:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    @ animalal

    Not to worry. The bill the Governor signs into law on Monday says this:

    "(2) It is unlawful for any person to marry his or her sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew."

    People who can marry now can already do it to game federal taxes. This doesn't change federal tax law, which will still discriminate against gay couples and their families.


    Posted Fri, Feb 10, 7:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    Jan, so the bill omits "unlawful" as to grandparents, cousins, and parents..how lovely!


    Posted Fri, Feb 10, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

    animalal, marrying one's cousin is already prohibited.

    "Marriages in the following cases are prohibited:... When the ((husband and wife)) spouses are nearer of kin to each other than second cousins, whether of the whole or half blood computing by the rules of the civil law."

    This part of the law is merely changing from "husband and wife" to "spouses."

    As for parents and grandparents, "child [or] grandchild" covers it. If you cannot marry your child or grandchild, obviously your child or grandchild cannot marry you (their parent or grandparent).

    Again, this was already part of the law. Old text in double parentheses.

    "It is unlawful for any ((man to marry his father's sister, mother's sister, daughter, sister, son's daughter, daughter's daughter, brother's daughter or sister's daughter; it is unlawful for any woman to marry her father's brother, mother's brother, son, brother, son's son, daughter's son, brother's son or sister's son)) person to marry his or her sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew."

    Read the bill.

    As for "2 same-gender heterosexuals marrying for tax and benefits reasons," that is already possible between two opposite-gender heterosexuals.

    The real issue here -- the only issue -- is whether homosexuals should be able to enter into state-recognized marriages on the same terms as heterosexuals. The legislature has said yes, the governor will do so soon, and an increasing number of Washingtonians also say yes. You can be opposed to it -- that's fine -- but incest has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Posted Sat, Feb 11, 8:08 a.m. Inappropriate

    How about marrying an animalal?? .............Nah, too horrible to consider.

    Posted Sun, Feb 12, 9:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    Kudos to Maureen Walsh for her thoughtful floor comments and courageous vote. With the Republican party firmly against equal rights for gay people, stepping outside the party takes real courage. She will be remembered for it. She will help save lives as young gay people in Washington State can now grow up, fall in love and get married like other people.

    One person who wasn't saved was Eric James Borges of Vancouver, BC. Borges said he was raised in an "extremist Christian household" in Visalia, California, and kicked out of the house shortly after he came out.

    Just one month after recording an 'It gets better' video, he committed suicide.


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