January 19, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 03
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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019



King County Councilmembers, City of Seattle urge for passage of marriage equality measures
King County Councilmembers, City of Seattle urge for passage of marriage equality measures
King County Councilmembers, City of Seattle urge for passage of marriage equality measures "This Legislature can ensure that the laws of Washington establish a just and civil society for all citizens," wrote five King County councilmembers.

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

In a letter obtained by the Seattle Gay News this week, members of the King County Metropolitan Council's Democratic Caucus weighed-in on the debate over marriage equality for same-sex couples. The three page letter, signed by five of the nine county councilmembers, urges state lawmakers in Olympia to adopt a legislative remedy to current state marital statutes, which excludes same-sex couples from the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

The letter reads, in part: "As members of the Democratic Caucus of the Metropolitan King County Council, we urge you to pass legislation ending the exclusion of gays and lesbians from statutory marital rights. This step is necessary not just to provide King County's gay and lesbian citizens with equal justice, but also to protect all the people of King County and ensure equal rights throughout the State of Washington

"The history of millions of responsible, intelligent, moral gay and lesbian couples in the United States confirms the importance of same-sex relationships, as does our personal knowledge of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances that are gay. Because their relationships are meaningful, laws should be changed that discriminate against same-sex couples, by denying legal meaning to their relationships.

"Every day that an injustice goes uncorrected is an unhealed wound. Thousands of our constituents have been told by their state Supreme Court that they are being discriminated against, but that their only remedy is an act of the Legislature. This Legislature can ensure that the laws of Washington establish a just and civil society for all citizens."

The letter, dated December 29, 2006, was signed by Council Chair Larry Gossett, former Council Chair Larry Phillips, and Councilmembers Dow Constantine, Bob Ferguson, and Julia Patterson.

The councilmembers cite a 2004 study conducted by Representative Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, prior to his election last November. He found that at least 423 rights and responsibilities granted under state statutes are based on marriage.

In the letter, the councilmembers said that children benefit when their parents are married. "The legal institution of marriage in Washington also helps protect its most vulnerable population, children. The statutes previously noted aid the financial stability of married couples, thus helping to provide stable, safe homes for children," they wrote.

They observed that seven of the nine justices on the state Supreme Court and two lower court judges "agreed Washington's existing marriage laws are discriminatory, leaving same-sex couples to suffer significant and unequal burdens."

"Justice Madsen's opinion for the court stated it was the province of the Washington State Legislature to remedy the problem. This Legislature has an opportunity and, we would argue, a responsibility to act," the letter reads.

Gossett did not return calls seeking comment by press time. An aide for Phillips said that the former Council Chair was chiefly responsible for drafting the letter, but that Phillips was traveling and not available for comment. Republican Caucus Chair Kathy Lambert told the SGN on Thursday that her caucus would discuss the letter at their next meeting on Monday, January 22.

Last month, the City of Seattle approved its 2007 legislative agenda, which advocates for the extension of equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. Under a section subtitled "Civil Rights," the document states: "We support statutory changes to provide gay and lesbian people the legal right to marry."

"It is a continuation of the cities decades' long commitment to full equality for all people in this city. It was a continuation of that policy," said Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who is openly Gay. "We know that full equality isn't here yet and the city is committed to fighting for that and achieving that. We will continue to have it in our legislative agenda until we succeed."

State Senator Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who is also openly Gay, said the support of local municipalities will be an important asset in his effort to pass two bills he sponsored in the Senate. "It is encouraging to see so much support so early in our legislative efforts to pass marriage equality," he told the SGN.

The proposed domestic partnership bill (SB 5336) includes language that would allow a person to visit a partner in the hospital, make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner, make funeral arrangements, and attain inheritance rights in the absence of a will. The second bill (SB 5335) would define marriage as "a civil contract between two persons" and amend marriage laws to include gender-neutral terms.

Openly Gay State Rep. Joe McDermott, D-Seattle, introduced the domestic partnership bill (HB 1351) and Pedersen introduced the marriage equality measure in (HB 1350) the House. The two other openly Gay members of the House, Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, and Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, are co-sponsoring the House versions of both bills

Rasmussen said the city's lobbyist will support the proposed legislation, but urged members of the state's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and its allies to contact their legislators. "This is more than a Seattle issue. It affects everyone in this state," he said. "We need everyone - all the communities throughout the state who care about this or who are working for this - to call their Senators and Legislators to let them know we want these bills passed."

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