People young and old and from all walks of life gathered in Olympia Monday to speak out for or against same-sex-marriage legislation.
OLYMPIA — A rabbi, a priest, a State Patrol officer, a retired Coast Guard admiral, business owners, students, moms and dads — some nervous, some emboldened — one by one sat before lawmakers to urge support or rejection of same-sex marriage in Washington state.
They were among hundreds who descended on the Capitol on Monday as the Legislature took a giant step toward granting gays and lesbians the right to marry.
They packed the House and Senate hearing rooms and spillover galleries to watch as committees of both houses heard testimony on a pair of bills moving through the Legislature.
At noon, a knot of same-sex couples, their supporters and lawmakers held a news conference, applauding news that the measures had won enough votes for approval in the Legislature.
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At the same time on the Capitol steps, more than 200 others rallied against the measure, as the Rev. Joe Fuiten, senior pastor of Cedar Park Assembly of God Church in Bothell, urged them to be ready to fight same-sex marriage all the way to the ballot box.
Opponents of the bills plan to file a referendum to get it on the ballot in November.
Earlier, inside the Senate hearing chamber, the Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain, Catholic archbishop of Seattle, told the panel that legalizing same-sex marriage would have long-term implications for the state and society in general. “Attempting to redefine marriage, it ignores the origin, purpose and value of marriage to individuals, families and society,” he said.
Retired National Guard Col. Grethe Cammermeyer spoke about how she and her partner married in Portland in 2004 after Multnomah County began granting marriage licenses to gays. Oregonians later that year voted to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.
“It changed how we felt about the strength of our relationship,” Cammermeyer said of marrying her partner of 16 years.
Evan Ozasa attended the hearing with about 10 people from the Olympia Bible Presbyterian Church, all wearing buttons that read: Marriage: one man, one woman.
He was among those who applauded statements by the Rev. Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, who said legalizing same-sex marriage would open the door to relationship arrangements that don’t stop at just two people. “Homosexuality is a sin,” Ozasa said. “That’s at the heart of this issue.”
One bench down, Marilyn Vogler, of Shelton, nodded in agreement with those who testified in favor of the bill. Vogler said she moved from Michigan in May because she felt that state was growing increasingly unfriendly to gays.
She was especially encouraged by religious leaders who spoke in favor of the legislation, including Rabbi Jonathan Singer, senior rabbi at Seattle’s Temple Beth Am. “They made it clear that religion is not single-minded on this issue, that churches will gladly solemnize same-sex marriage,” Vogler said.