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Amendments ready on gay marriage bill

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
February 1, 2012 2:30 pm

Three senators who have been closely watched in the same-sex marriage debate, Republican Sen. Joe Fain of Auburn and Democratic Sens. Brian Hatfield of Raymond and Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island, have offered amendments that could be taken up when the bill goes to the floor tonight.

Hatfield’s amendment is an attempt to send same-sex marriage to a public vote, which appears unlikely to find support in the Senate. Haugen, who gave Democrats the 25th vote to put them over the top on same-sex marriage, offers up some language to establish that the bill doesn’t affect adoption rights. And Fain is pressing for more protections for religious organizations.

The bill already says churches and other religious groups have the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, something that itself is likely redundant because of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Fain’s amendments go further by formally protecting other activities by religious groups, such as marriage counseling.

His amendments would also remove the intent section of the bill, to which some religious groups have objected because it uses the word “discrimination” for the current state of affairs. The section starts out:

It is the intent of this act to end discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation in Washington, to ensure that all persons in this state may enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms, while also respecting the religious freedom of clergy and religious institutions to determine for whom to perform marriage ceremonies and to determine which marriages to recognize for religious purposes.

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