From Alexis Krell in our Capitol bureau:
Gov. Chris Gregoire said today that she will introduce legislation to allow same-sex marriages in Washington state, her first public support for gay marriage.
“It is time, it’s the right thing to do, and I will introduce the bill to make it happen,” Gregoire told reporters.
Washington would be the seventh state to legalize gay marriage if the legislation is passed. The effort would not require religious institutions to perform same-sex marriages.
Gregoire has previously supported giving gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples, but not legalizing same-sex marriage. Voters approved an “everything but marriage” law, Referendum 71, in 2009.
“I think like many people in the state, she started in one place and she’s evolved a lot in her thinking,” said Laurie Jinkins, a Tacoma Democrat and the first openly lesbian representative to serve in the Legislature. “What’s happening is a real reflection of how this state has moved.”
Jinkins attended Gregoire’s announcement with her partner Laura, and said their 11-year-old son already asked to take the day off school should his parents be married.
Opponents of the effort argue that lawmakers should focus on resolving the state’s budget shortfall. Supporters say they can do both.
“It’s always the right time to ensure that every family has the protections they need, especially in difficult economic times like this,” Jinkins said.
Lawmakers told reporters they would not stand in the way of the measure going to voters for final approval and are preparing for a statewide campaign. “If the citizens want to put this on the ballot, they have that constitutional right,” said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.