Originally published August 26, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Page modified August 27, 2011 at 4:18 PM

Time for Washington lawmakers to count the votes for gay marriage

New York passed a gay marriage law. Washington should be next.

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NEW YORK'S passage of a gay-marriage law prompts an obvious question: When should Washington pursue such legislation? The answer is soon — next year, if requisite legislative votes can be rounded up.

Washington should move into the modern era of equity and fairness for gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships.

State Sen. Ed Murray and Rep. Jamie Pedersen, two openly gay legislators from Seattle, are considering a new push for a gay-marriage bill in January. Similar bills have been introduced every two years since 1997. Timing is always a consideration, but Murray and Pedersen are right to move ahead and at least count the votes.

It makes little sense to introduce such a controversial law if it's all noise with limited prospects.

Murray and Pedersen suspect there are sufficient votes for such legislation in the House, but probably not enough in the Senate.

That's where the effort must go. Murray and Pedersen will urge gay and lesbian families and their friends, gay or straight, to directly lobby Democrats and Republicans who might be persuaded to vote for marriage fairness.

For many years, Murray has pursued an incrementalist approach. In 2006, the Legislature passed a law that provides gay and lesbian individuals nondiscrimination protection in employment, housing and financial transactions. During the next three sessions, lawmakers approved domestic-partnership laws in phases.

Public attitudes toward gay marriage are evolving, led by younger generations. In fact, polls now show a majority of Americans support gay marriage.

Washington and New York are different places. New York doesn't have an initiative process like Washington's vigorous one. Lawmakers here pondering such an idea must consider the challenge of both passing a bill and beating a referendum attempt to call it back.

Murray has always been careful to push the envelope just enough to make people think but not so much that he ignites huge pushback.

Washington is a live-and-let-live kind of place where people tend to respect others' rights and privacy. It is time to legalize gay marriage. Proceed carefully and purposefully.


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