Clark County gays, lesbians optimistic about marriage equality bill

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: January 4, 2012, 8:48 PM

 
photoState Rep. Jim Moeller

Gov. Christine Gregoire’s announcement Wednesday that she would champion a bill to legalize same-sex marriage sent ripples of joy through Clark County’s gay and lesbian community.

“It makes me pretty happy,” said Anna Petruolo, who lives with her domestic partner, Lisa Robbins, in the Fruit Valley neighborhood.

The couple had a ceremony to celebrate their union in September and registered with the state as domestic partners. However, their domestic partnership hasn’t afforded them all of the benefits of marriage. They don’t receive a tax break for being married and have to file their tax returns separately, for instance.

Petruolo said the couple plan to marry if the state Legislature approves the measure.

“We will do it legally; no doubt about it,” she said.

The governor’s commitment to the marriage equality cause also was a triumphant moment for state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver. The gay lawmaker has been a leader in the effort to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I’m optimistic that 2012 will be the year when marriage equality becomes a reality,” Moeller said in a statement Wednesday.

Each session, Moeller has filed legislation to give marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

“I’ve been involved with the development of the language and the bill (the governor) is proposing,” Moeller said in a phone interview Wednesday. “For the last three to four years, I’ve been the person to introduce the marriage bill in the House. I was planning on introducing it in the House this session, but the governor has wonderfully accepted to make it her governor’s request legislation.”

Moeller said he expects the bill to garner bipartisan support in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Monday.

He said he’s observed the governor’s opinion on gay and lesbian marriage evolve during her years in office. She isn’t running for re-election to a third term in 2012.

“I think it’s eight years of development and seeing there is really a difference between a domestic partnership and full marriage equality” Moeller said. “I think that eventually led her to propose this legislation.”

“The governor sees quite correctly that it’s the couple’s call, not the state’s, when it comes to deciding whether to marry,” he said. “Our society should strengthen social and legal protections for these mainstream Washington families: men, women and their children who make their homes in every one of our communities and neighborhoods.”

“Strong, healthy families promote social stability and prosperous economic growth,” he said.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com