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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 13, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 02
King County Council supports marriage equality
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King County Council supports marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The King County Council voted to support marriage equality in a resolution passed on January 9. Three Republicans joined all five Democrats on the council in a bipartisan eight-to-one vote. Only Republican Kathy Lambert voted No.

The resolution was proposed by the council's first and only openly Gay member, West Seattle's Joe McDermott.

'We have confirmed our county's commitment to equality for all of Washington's families,' McDermott said in a statement posted on the council's website.

'I want the opportunity to marry my partner of over 12 years before our families and friends. The Council's vote is very personal for me and the thousands of families who are denied rights simply because of who they love.'

McDermott later told SGN he was 'thrilled' with the bipartisan result.

'I was surprised at how broad the support was,' he said. 'I hope it suggests to our legislators that the time has come to pass the marriage bill.'

One of the surprise votes in favor of McDermott's resolution was Republican Reagan Dunn, who is a candidate for Washington attorney general.

Dunn credited McDermott's diplomacy for the lopsided margin of victory.

'When Joe [McDermott] introduced the resolution back in December I asked him to let me think about this. He gave me the time and I appreciated that. The thing I wanted to look at was the religious exemption.'

The resolution includes language that allows religious institutions to opt out of performing or recognizing same-sex marriages.

McDermott told SGN that he was willing to accommodate his Republican colleagues in order to 'build relationships' that would allow them to feel comfortable voting for the resolution.

'When they asked for a delay to consider the issues I agreed,' McDermott said. 'And I accepted the religious exemption. So we were able to have a series of conversations that led to the bipartisan vote.'

Of the three Republicans who voted for marriage equality, Dunn had perhaps the most to lose, since he is running for a statewide office and risks alienating conservative voters.

Asked if he had gotten much negative feedback from fellow Republicans, Dunn shot back 'Oh yeah!'

'I have to tell you, though, the comments are trending five to one in favor of the position I took.'

Dunn also told SGN he sees his vote as 'consistent with Republican values.'

'We believe in less government,' he said. 'More individual responsibility. More individual choices. A strong commitment to family. People should be able to form stable families. I personally see this as very consistent.

'The social conservatives have a valid point as well. In the coming months all that will be sorted out.'

Dunn said only a minority of Republicans now favor marriage equality, but he believes that number will grow.

'It's about 60-40,' Dunn said about the split on marriage in Republican ranks.

'A lot of Republicans here have a position that's different from the rest of the party. You'll see that as things develop in Olympia.'

'It's very much generational,' he added. 'Very much generational.'

Democratic Councilmember Bob Ferguson, Dunn's probable opponent in the state attorney general race, is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights.

'This should tell the legislature it's time to move forward,' Ferguson told SGN.

'I always hoped it would be a bipartisan vote, but it didn't become clear who was on board until the last couple of days.'

'There's been such a dramatic change in public opinion in recent years,' he added.

'As usual, the people get ahead of the elected officials - there's such strong polling in favor of marriage equality. I have no doubt that helped convince the ones who hadn't made up their minds.'

Republican Kathy Lambert, the lone holdout, said same-sex marriage should go to a statewide vote. 'Something this big needs to have the people weigh in,' she said.

When a Republican-backed amendment asking for a statewide referendum on marriage was voted down by the Council, Lambert alone decided to vote against the main resolution.

An October 2011 poll by the University of Washington's Washington Poll found support for marriage equality at 55% across the state. Among Republicans, support statewide was just 24%, but among Democrats it was 84%.

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