Moeller to co-sponsor gay-marriage bill

Vancouver Democrat optimistic Legislature will OK measure in 2012

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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State Rep. Jim Moeller announced Thursday he’ll join dozens of other legislators next week in introducing a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the 2012 Legislature.

“Let’s trust adults to make the call — not any state office, agency, or bureaucracy — when it comes to adult decisions such as marital vows,” Moeller, D-Vancouver, said in a statement.

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.”

A new Washington Poll, conducted by the Center for Survey Research at the University of Washington, found that 43 percent of those polled agreed with the statement: “Gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal right to marry as straight couples.”

Another 22 percent agreed with the statement: “Gay and lesbian couples should be able to have the same legal rights as straight couples, but it should not be called marriage.”

That’s basically the status quo with the state’s “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law.

Moeller said the right to marry is not only deeply personal but also important to the larger society.

“Strong, healthy families promote social stability and prosperous economic growth,” he said. “Couples who have obtained civil-marriage licenses have committed themselves to one another in heart and mind. The state, then, has a responsibility to establish the legal, ethical and common-sense protections that are realized through a bona fide marriage contract.”

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4523; kathie.durbin@columbian.com.