A Lonely Widow's Conscience Helped Gay Marriage Pass in Washington

A Republican state legislator cited her relationship with her deceased husband to explain why she broke ranks and voted to allow same-sex unions.


In the video above, Washington State Rep. Maureen Walsh explains why she was one of only two Republicans in her chamber to break ranks and support a marriage-equality bill. A summary can't do justice to her moving words -- just click play and admire her candor.

The bigger news is that gay marriage will soon be legal in another state. As The Christian Science Monitor explains:
 
The Washington House of Representatives voted 55 to 43 Wednesday to approve gay marriage. The State Senate already had passed the measure 28 to 21, and Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), who calls it "a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation," will sign the bill.

The history of the Washington State bill mirrors the shift in public and political attitudes toward gay marriage around the country. In 1998, state lawmakers passed a Defense of Marriage Act declaring marriage to be a union between a man and a woman. In 2006, a state civil rights measure specifically including protections based on sexual orientation passed for the first time. The next year, a domestic partnership law was enacted, and in 2009 voters approved expanding that law to include everything but marriage. The new gay marriage law was approved largely along party lines. Just two Republicans voted for it, and two Democrats voted against it. Prominent companies in the Pacific Northwest -- including Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks -- publicly support same-sex marriage and endorsed the bill. (Some conservative Christian organizations launched a boycott of Starbucks as a result.)
Opponents of the bill say they'll try to collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot in hopes that voters will overturn it.
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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