I reported for Reuters at the Washington state Capitol yesterday, covering the public hearings on a gay marriage bill — and in between, the breaking news that the state Senate now has enough votes to pass the bill. (The House already had enough votes.) It now appears that Washington’s lawmakers will legalize gay marriage next month, while opponents work on gathering the 260,000-plus signatures they need between now and July 6 to put the issue on the November ballot, confident that voters will overturn the law, Prop. 8-style.
From a religion reporting perspective, the interesting angle was seeing clergy take different sides in their testimony. On the pro-gay marriage side, the speakers included Rabbi Jonathan Singer (of Seattle’s Temple Beth Ami, a Reform Jewish congregation), an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America bishop, and a United Church of Christ pastor. On the opposing side, the speakers included the Catholic Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, an African-American church pastor, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and a range of white evangelical voices.
Christian groups also helped rally several hundred people, including (homeschooled?) children, outside the Capitol in favor of traditional marriage.
Most Washingtonians do not belong to any congregation. Catholics, about one-sixth of the state’s population, make up the majority of religiously affiliated Washington state residents, followed by evangelical Christians, according to data distributed by the Association of Religion Data Archives. Gov. Chris Gregoire, herself a practicing Roman Catholic, does not believe this issue poses conflict for religious groups, given that clergy would remain free not to perform or recognize same-sex unions, said Karina Shagren, Gregoire’s spokeswoman. But the language leaves too much room for doubt, said Pastor Joe Fuiten, of Cedar Park Assembly of God in Bothell, who has been rallying evangelical Christians against the legislation.