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Legislature within one vote of backing gay marriage after Sen. Jim Kastama’s announcement

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Jan. 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
January 20, 2012 4:48 pm

Kastama, a Puyallup Democrat who was wavering on the issue, today became the 24th state senator to say he will vote for legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Supporters need 25 votes in the Senate and 50 in the House, where at least 49 Democrats and two Republicans have committed to voting for it. No one’s declaring victory yet, but I’ve heard from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who say privately they expect at least one more Senate vote to emerge.

Two Republicans and 22 Democrats have endorsed gay marriage rights in the Senate, including Kastama, a moderate who in 1998 voted for a law that defined marriage as a union between a man and woman.

“I think we have all evolved” since 1998, Kastama said of his change of heart. “I’m like many people who have searched for answers on this issue.”

His conclusion: “To strengthen marriage as a valued institution, it must evolve to meet the needs of today’s couples.”

Gov. Chris Gregoire has also changed her mind and introduced the legislation that is expected to be heard Monday.

Kastama said this won’t be popular with many people in his suburban district, which is part of why he said it was a difficult decision. But he’s not running for re-election. Instead, he’s running statewide for secretary of state. Statewide polls indicate supporters of gay marriage rights outnumber opponents.

Kastama said those calculations didn’t enter into his decision, and he did vote for an expansion of domestic partnership benefits in 2006 2009. He said some people have told him it might even hurt him in his race. But with other Democrats in the race mostly standing to the left of centrist Kastama, it could at least help him get through a crowded primary.

UPDATE 2 p.m.: Several businesses also endorsed same sex marriage today. Sen. Ed Murray said Microsoft, RealNetworks, Group Health Cooperative, Vulcan, Nike and others now back his measure.

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