Thursday, February 09, 2012

Washington State Legislature Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill With Protections For Religious Organizations

The Washington state legislature yesterday gave final passage, and sent to the governor for her signature, SB 6239 legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 55-43, after the state Senate passed it last week by a vote of 28-21. (See prior related posting.)  CNN reports that Gov. Christine Gregoire will sign the bill that will go into effect in June at the end of the legislative session-- unless opponents place it on the November ballot to seek voter disapproval. The bill contains a number of provisions to protect churches, religious organizations and clergy. No member of the clergy is required to perform or recognized a same-sex marriage. No religious organization or religiously affiliated educational institution is required to provide accommodations, facilities (including campus chapels), goods or services related to the solemnization of a marriage. The bill also provides that:
No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with any religious organization on the refusal of a person associated with such religious organization to solemnize or recognize a marriage under this section.
 The bill defines "religious organization" to include faith-based social service organizations even if they offer services to the broader community.