State moves step closer to legalization of gay marriage

State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup

Washington moved one step closer Thursday to legalization of same-sex marriage in the state, with conservative state Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, announcing he will vote in favor of the gay marriage bill in the Legislature.

Kastama becomes the 24th state senator to announce support for the the bill; 25 senators are needed for passage. The measure already has enough support to pass the state House, and Gov. Christine Gregoire has pledged her support for legalizing gay marriage.

Kastama said in a statement, “In my two terms as a state representative and three as a state senator, I have defended the institution of marriage and family.

“As our world has changed, so have our relationships. We are a very different people than we were in the 1950s or during my childhood. To strengthen marriage as a valued institution it must evolve to meet the demands of today’s couples. In 2012, I believe we have reached the point where society is ready to recognize and support same-sex couples who seek the bonds, benefits and security of marriage. They too, deserve this 'safety net.'

"Unlike some of my colleagues in liberal districts, I will not return home to cheers and handshakes," Kastama said. "I represent the district I was raised in ... The people of my district are generous and decent, but I also know that there are childhood friends who will never forgive me for this vote."

The legislation, Senate Bill 6239, is sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. The first public hearings were scheduled to be held in Olympia on Monday.

Washington state currently has a domestic partnership law, which gives same-sex couples many of the same rights as heterosexual couples but does not go as far as recognizing marriage.

Six states, plus the District of Columbia, have recognized marriage for same-sex couples: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.