Wash. lawmakers diverge on gay marriage debate

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Top state lawmakers are split on whether the Legislature should be taking votes on gay marriage during the state's budget crisis.

Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt said Thursday that dealing with social issues will only create turmoil at a time when lawmakers are working to find consensus on crucial spending cuts. He said it would particularly create problems because Democratic budget negotiator Ed Murray is "vested in this personally." Murray is gay and a long-time proponent of expanding marriage to same-sex couples.

Top Democrats said during the annual AP Legislative Preview that now is the time for lawmakers to approve gay marriage. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown says she believes the public is on board with it.

Gov. Chris Gregoire renewed a broader discussion on gay marriage Wednesday as she publicly announced her support of the idea and acknowledging that she's been grappling with the issue for years. .