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Washington’s Gay Marriage Debate: Clergy vs. Clergy

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.

Conservative families rallied against a gay marriage bill at the Washington State Capitol on Monday.


Christian groups also helped rally several hundred people, including (homeschooled?) children, outside the Capitol in favor of traditional marriage.

It was a very long day, and I was surprised that none of the legislators simply gave up, after hearing all these conflicting faith-based views, and suggested that they just not take religious beliefs into account either way. But I guess that would be bad politics, even in the great unchurched Pacific Northwest. From my notes:
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.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.



Comments read comments(2)
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Cry, Beloved Country

posted January 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm

The Washington State bill pretends to protect religious freedom but sections 4 and 7 quietly and completely take it away, and leave pastors, imams, rabbis, churches, mosques and synagogues open to action by the State Human Rights Commission, the Attorney General’s office (through the ALJ system) and the court system.

They will be faced with the option of marrying people they don’t in good conscience believe their God allows them to marry, or being bankrupted.

And once we let the government infringe the religious freedom of one group over one issue, it will be hard to keep them out of everyone else’s spiritual practice as well.

Here’s an analysis of the language of the bill as it pertains to religious freedom:

report abuse


posted March 31, 2014 at 9:53 pm

i do not see any meaning in such debates.

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