Today, a small minority in Washington state is celebrating while the rest of citizens across the state are wondering what the future will hold for families and religious liberties. At a gathering today at the state Capitol, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law Senate Bill 6239, a measure that repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state.
A hard-fought debate to protect traditional marriage
Many of my House Republican colleagues and I fought very hard on the House floor to protect the institution of marriage between one man and one woman and to defend the constitutional right of conscientious objection during the two-hour debate. You can listen to my floor remarks here. Unfortunately, in the end, we did not have enough votes to prevent the bill from passing. The final vote was 55 to 43. Since the Senate had passed the bill a week earlier, it was sent directly to the governor who signed it today.
During the House debate, we offered an amendment that would have sent this issue to the voters in November for a final decision. Unfortunately, the Democrat majority rejected that amendment. If there is a positive side of this issue, it is that supporters did not attach an emergency clause to the bill that would have prevented a referendum. A grassroots effort has begun across Washington to gather enough signatures to qualify the measure for a referendum. I firmly believe the governor's signature today is not the final decision. Instead, I believe, I hope and I pray voters will have the opportunity to have the final say.
Following House passage, I issued a statement you can read here. Although the bill does provide some immunity for religious organizations that refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies, I remain concerned that no protections exist for businesses and citizens who decline to participate on the basis of their religious beliefs. A Seattle newspaper has questioned that concern and my prediction that it could open the door for massive lawsuits. My response is that the reporter should look at the history of lawsuits involving Washington pharmacists who were hauled into court when they refused to dispense the Plan B “morning after” contraceptive and cited religious conscientious objections. We cannot be so naive to believe the same will not happen when a wedding photographer, baker, tailor, hotel or any other business exercises their constitutional right of religious objection.
Let's balance the budget and get Washington working again!
Since this issue is now behind us in the Legislature, I'm hoping we can finally put our focus back on writing a supplemental budget that will close a $1.5 billion shortfall and concentrate on private-sector job creation. We are in day 36 of the scheduled 60-day session, which means we are well past the halfway point and still have much to do. We need to get busy writing a budget that concentrates on funding the priorities of government: education, public safety and protection of the state's most vulnerable citizens. And we need to close the shortfall WITHOUT tax increases. In addition, we must turn our attention toward giving employers regulatory and tax relief which will help to unshackle the entrepreneurial spirit of this state to create jobs.
Sen. Rick Santorum visits the state Capitol
As you know, I believe a family with a mother and a father is the core foundation of a productive and well-rounded society. I'm fighting for families every day in all that I do as your state representative. So I was pleased to hear Sen. Rick Santorum talk about the importance of families. Santorum, who is a presidential candidate, made a visit today to the House Republican Caucus in Olympia. I sat next to him as he spoke of the reasons America is struggling – and a large part of that, he said, was the breakdown in society of traditional family values. Problems are greater, he noted, when there's not a father in the home. He also noted that the best way to fight poverty is for young people to graduate from high school and not have children before marriage.
Working on the floor late
Following Santorum's visit this afternoon, we returned to the House floor to begin voting again. Tomorrow at 5 p.m. is the deadline for House bills to pass from the House floor. Those that have not advanced by that time are considered “dead” for the session. However, legislation necessary to implement the budget is exempt from the deadline. So we worked well into the night, debating and passing bills before adjourning at 10 p.m.
House approves measure to save PCO elections
The most important position at the grassroots level of politics is the precinct committee officer (PCO). They organize neighborhoods and get people out to vote, which is essential to our republic. However, elections of PCOs were put in jeopardy last year when the U.S. District Court ruled the way they are held is unconstitutional. The court said the method of elections, in which anyone regardless of party affiliation could vote for a Republican or Democrat PCO, “severely burdens the political parties' ability to identify and associate with members of their respective parties.” To save PCO elections, I helped to write House Bill 1860. The measure would provide for a check box on the ballot in PCO elections only, in which the voter identifies which party he or she prefers. The instructions would indicate that only those voters who affiliate with a major political party may vote for the PCO candidate of that same party. The measure passed the House with a unanimous vote. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.
Thank you for your support
Throughout the same-sex marriage debate, some of the more liberal organizations and media in the state have not been so kind, and some have been extremely disrespectful to me — and my conservative colleagues — even though the bill they supported passed. We committed at the beginning of the debate to be respectful although we disagree. I thought my House Republican colleagues carried the deba
te with the utmost respect, even though at times it was painful for them. Even the governor acknowledged the level of thoughtfulness and respect from the debate. What makes our United States of America great is the ability to disagree with civility. Your prayers and words of encouragement were uplifting to me as we entered this discussion. Although I am disappointed with the outcome, I greatly appreciate all the citizens I serve. Thank you for this great honor and for your support.