Statement from Rep. Matt Shea on House passage of same-sex marriage legislation

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, issued this statement following House passage today of Senate Bill 6239, a measure that would legalize same-sex marriages in Washington. The bill is on its way to the governor, who is expected to sign it.

“I am extremely disappointed on several levels. We entered the 2012 legislative session in January with a $1.5 billion budget deficit and more than 300,000 people across Washington without jobs. Citizens across the state have repeatedly said they want the Legislature to balance the budget without tax increases and work to pass legislation that would help stimulate the state’s economy and spur private-sector job creation. The uncertainty of the state budget is one of the factors standing in the way of businesses creating jobs. We are now more than halfway through the scheduled 60-day session and to date, the majority party has not brought forward a budget and they have done absolutely nothing to help our state’s economy. Instead, they have pushed these issues aside and concentrated their efforts during the first 30 days of the session on passing same-sex marriage legislation. If the Legislature is forced into a costly special session at taxpayers’ expense to finish its budget work, this will be the reason why.

“Secondly, I am very concerned that this legislation tramples on the state’s constitutional rights of religious conscience. While the bill has been amended to provide narrow exemptions for religious organizations that do not choose to be involved in same-sex ceremonies, it contains nothing to provide the same protections for private businesses that refuse service for these ceremonies on the grounds of religious conscience. That invites massive new lawsuits against photographers, bakers and decorators, tuxedo and wedding dress stores, hotels, caterers and others involved in the wedding industry. Article 1, Section 11 of the Washington State Constitution says ‘absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual.’ The constitution also says, ‘perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured and that no inhabitant of this state shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship.’ These are some of the strongest words of any state in the nation that Washington’s founders wrote to protect the right of conscience. Passage of today’s legislation eviscerates that long-standing recognized right.

“I am also disappointed the majority party refused to accept our attempt to add a referendum clause to this legislation. This is a pivotal moment in our state’s history — no matter which side you take on the issue. I believe with such an important issue, the citizens of Washington should have the final say.

“Finally, marriage between one man and one woman is a long-standing institution in our state, as well as across the nation. Washington state has already provided homosexual couples all the rights, benefits and privileges of married couples. Yet only one-quarter of one percent of the state’s population have registered as domestic partners. I am astounded the Legislature has spent so much time on this issue when we have so many citizens out of work, when so many families have lost their homes, when businesses continue to close, and our economy is still in trouble. It’s time for this Legislature to set the right priorities and get Washington working again.”

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CONTACT: John Sattgast, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7257


Washington State House Republican Communications