Shea warns of consequences as domestic partner bill advances
With all Republican members voting no, the state House Judiciary Committee approved legislation Feb. 12 that would broaden domestic partnership rights in Washington. The measure (HB 1727) would give same-sex domestic partners all the rights and benefits of legally married couples.
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Mead, voted against advancing the bill, which he said would move Washington closer to legalizing same-sex marriage, endanger free speech, and saddle the state with a hefty multi-million dollar price tag.
Referred to as the “everything but marriage” bill, the measure is openly acknowledged by its supporters as a vehicle to advance the prospects of a same-sex marriage bill in the future.
Shea, assistant ranking Republican on the panel, expressed exasperation and disappointment that majority Democrats on the committee rejected Republican amendments that were offered to refine the measure and incorporate protections into the bill's provisions.
One of the rejected amendments was aimed at ensuring free speech rights:
“Mere written or spoken words expressing a person's or organization's religious beliefs regarding opposite-sex relationships and unions, including marriage between a man and a woman, and same-sex relationships and unions, including domestic partnerships between a man and man, or a woman and a woman, shall not subject any person or organization to civil or criminal liability.”
The amendment was turned back on a party-line vote.
“Freedom of speech is a pillar of our republic. By not supporting our proposal to defend our freedom of speech, proponents of the bill have made it clear that they put domestic partnerships above our constitutionally protected rights. That leaves the door wide open for hate speech legislation,” Shea warned. “Republicans share a commitment against hate and bigotry, but it's not a reach to see how thoughts, feelings and beliefs could become criminal offenses.”
More than 250 people rallied at the state Capitol last week to protest the bill, and packed into a jammed hearing room to testify against the measure.
“Opponents of the bill outnumbered supporters by a four to one margin,” said Shea. “Senior staff members observed that it was one of the largest turnouts for a hearing they had ever seen.”
After the vote moving HB 1727 out of committee, Shea noted that according to the 84-page fiscal note on the measure, the estimated cost to the state would be millions of dollars.
“Our state is facing a budget crisis of historic dimensions. With a deficit that is projected to exceed $6 billion, this is neither the appropriate time nor the appropriate reason to spend that kind of money on a political statement,” he concluded.
###Washington State House Republican Communications