FEBRUARY 24, 1997
by Jeff Switzer, senior staff reporter
OLYMPIA--Gov. Gary Locke has vetoed the bill which would have prohibited same-sex marriages in Washington State, saying it was "divisive and unnecessary" and was clearly designed to promote discrimination.
"I oppose any measure that would divide, disrespect, or diminish our humanity," Locke said. "Our overreaching principle should be to promote civility, mutual respect, and unity, and to reject hate, violence, and bigotry. This legislation fails to meet this test."
Known as the Marriage Protection Act, the Senate bill passed by the House on Valentine's Day defined marriage in statute as a union between one man and one woman. The bill came in response to a recent court ruling in Hawaii which could legalize same-sex marriage in that state, thereby requiring Washington to recognize it unless there was a clearly stated exception.
"In each case, we were told that if the Hawaii ruling stands, it could supercede our existing case law in Washington and overturn our current ban on same-sex marriage," said Rep. Bill Thompson (R-44th).
Thompson cited a 1974 ruling which upheld the state's traditional practice of limiting marriage to a man and a woman, noting that Hawaii's decision would force Washington to recognize same-sex marriages.
Locke disagrees, noting that the 1974 decision stands, and prohibiting marriages recognized by another state violates the U.S. Constitution.
"I'm proud of the Governor for having the courage to do what's right," said Rev. Paul Beeman, a retired United Methodist Church minister in Olympia. "People may make choices based on their religion, but I don't believe the state has the right to tell people who they can or cannot marry."
Thompson said the Legislature will probably first consider a veto override, a process which must start where the bill began, in the Senate. The house vote on Feb. 14 was 63-35, three votes shy of a two-thirds majority. If the Senate fails to override the veto, the legislature may authorize a referendum, which would send the issue to the voters in the fall.
"Regardless of how the Governor feels, we have always insisted that such an important and far-reaching decision be made by the people of Washington, either directly or through their elected officials, but not by a judge in Hawaii," Thompson said.