Washington Legislature will consider marriage equality bill in 2012

A day after the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) lauded Basic Rights Oregon’s decision not to push for a marriage-equality bill next year, news comes that Oregon’s northern neighbor Washington will attempt legalizing same-sex marriage in 2012.

Washington state Rep. Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver), who is openly gay, announced the upcoming legislation Thursday, reports The Columbian.

From the Columbian:

Washington has one of the most sweeping domestic partnership laws in the nation. But gay marriage legislation has failed to pass repeatedly, most recently in the 2011 session, when a bill Moeller co-sponsored with state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, failed to come to a vote. Moeller and Murray are among the Legislature’s openly gay members.

Moeller said he’s optimistic that the 2012 bill will make it into law.

“Our objective is to strengthen the social and legal protections for average, mainstream Washington families — the men, women and their children who make their homes in our communities and neighborhoods,” he said.

He emphasized that the legislation will protect the rights of clergy and religious institutions to determine for whom to perform marriage ceremonies and which marriages to recognize.

Washington’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between a man and a woman. It survived a legal challenge when the Washington Supreme Court upheld it in 2006.

But times have changed, and support for gay marriage is growing nationwide, Moeller said. “Four years ago, there were only a couple of states that actually offered marriage equality. Now there are six.”

Thursday marked another noteworthy day for same-sex marriage supporters, as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which would allow all legally-married couples to access federal benefits.

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