Obama's support of gay marriage could have effect in Washington

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Some Southwest Washington Democratic leaders said Wednesday that they believe the president’s support for same-sex marriage will give oomph to the cause at the state level.

“When you have the president of the United States come out in favor of your issue, it’s hard not to be energized,” said state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver.

The state’s 2012 Legislature passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage, but opponents are pushing for Referendum 74, which would let Washington voters decide the issue. Those opponents are on track to collect enough signatures to put the referendum on the ballot.

Moeller, who is openly gay, said President Barack Obama’s comments show that Obama’s stance on the issue has fully evolved.

“I’m still amazed at the period of time that I’m living in,” Moeller said Wednesday. “Same-sex marriage

has always been considered an aspect of the ‘looney left.’ It’s never been considered an actual issue worthy of debate by average folks. That’s the whole shift -- the quantum leap -- that I’m just kind of amazed at.”

State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said the president’s statements did not change his stance on the issue. He said he stands by his vote in the 2012 Legislature against same-sex marriage, and he said he voted that way because the majority of his constituents do not agree with same-sex marriage.

“I voted according to those people, and actually, to the way I feel,” Harris said. He added that the everything-but-marriage law that was approved earlier by lawmakers is adequate enough to address the needs of same-sex couples.

Clark County Republican Chairman Brandon Vick said he didn’t have much to say about the president’s announcement, but “our party platform states that marriage should be handled by the churches and not the government at all.”

Clark County same-sex marriage advocate Ty Stober said he had an emotional reaction to finding out about Obama’s support of his cause. Wednesday’s news was uplifting, given Tuesday’s news that North Carolina voters had decided to ban same-sex marriage.

“Yesterday was one step back, and today is hopefully one big step forward,” Stober said. “Every person that publicly says that they support marriage equality helps move the conversation forward.”

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, released a statement Wednesday lauding the president’s announcement. Murray helped spearhead the same-sex marriage legislation in Olympia.

“In a 17-year effort to pass marriage equality legislation in Washington state, I have been inspired by the thoughtfulness and compassion shown by people of all walks of life as they consider such a deeply personal issue,” said Murray, who is openly gay. “I believe that, as more people come to know their gay and lesbian friends, family members and neighbors, as a state and a nation we will embrace marriage equality.”

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics