Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

Award for Gay Marriage Vote Reminds Us — it All Seems so February

Sens. Ed Murray and Steve Litzow are honored by the King County Municipal League for their support of this year's gay marriage legislation.

Sens. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island were handed an award from the Municipal League of King County Thursday night for their support of this session’s gay marriage legislation. And it reminds Washington State Wire that there was a debate about the issue this year. These days it all seems,  like, oh, so February. It was all so long ago and so irrelevant today that it might as well have taken place during the Ford Administration.

Remember how everyone seemed to get their knickers in a knot? Now, poof, it’s over and done with. After a month of positioning early this session, which some considered a distraction from the budget debate, and others considered a way to mark time until the February revenue forecast, the gay marriage measure sailed through the House and Senate and was signed into law by the governor. Next the voters will have their say. A repeal referendum seems almost certain to make the ballot.

There are a couple of political points worth making about that February vote. The first is that it showed a big difference between urban and rural lawmakers, and not between parties. In King County, support for gay marriage was something of a consensus position, held by legislators of both parties, both Democrats and Republicans in suburban swing districts. Things were a bit different in the state’s hinterland, which is represented primarily by Republicans. Most of them — but certainly not all — voted against the measure in the House and Senate.

But here’s what’s more important. Now politicians are free to ignore the whole thing. It’s a non-issue in this year’s political campaigns. Legislative candidates who might risked displeasure from the left or the right can now simply say that it’s in the voters’ hands and they’ll respect whatever the people of Washington have to say. Will the referendum draw a few additional progressive voters to the polls in King County who might otherwise have stayed home? Oh, maybe. And maybe it’ll bring out conservative voters, too. You never know. Some think it might be more important with leftish voters in King County than it will be with rightish voters anywhere else, but it’s just as reasonable to think that it will be a wash. And somehow it’s hard to imagine really all that many motivated voters are planning to sit out the next election anyway.

You have to wonder if the one most disappointed with the outcome is Jay Inslee, Democratic candidate for governor. For the last year, every chance he gotten, he’s pointed out how much he supports gay marriage, in hopes of drawing a distinction with Republican Rob McKenna. But here’s the funny thing about that. Even though many continue to claim that McKenna opposes gay marriage, that’s not McKenna’s position. He has actually maintained that it’s an issue properly decided by the voters, not by the Legislature. Which is how, apparently, it is going to work out in the end.

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As for that award, the honors for Murray and Litzow are easily explained. Murray, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was prime sponsor of the gay marriage bill in the Senate — and his advocacy for the measure certainly goes beyond that. His first involvement in the Legislature wasn’t as a member, but rather as an activist for gay rights legislation in the early ’90s. Litzow, meanwhile, was the first Senate Republican to announce his support for the bill. Here’s what the Senate Republican Caucus had to say about that award:

Litzow honored with award for bipartisan leadership

OLYMPIA, April 6.–On Thursday evening the Municipal League of King County presented Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island with its Warren G. Magnuson Memorial award, in recognition of his bipartisan leadership during the 2012 legislative session.

Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle received the award along with Sen. Litzow for their roles in passing the bill that created Washington’s marriage-equality law in February.

“It was an absolute honor to be recognized and stand alongside Senator Murray to receive this commendation,” said Litzow. “I am pleased to have been part of this historic legislation because I believe it was the right thing to do.

“The statesmanship on display during this year’s marriage-equality debate was indicative of the Senate’s bipartisan efforts throughout the past year. I’m grateful to the Municipal League of King County for its recognition of our collective effort, and I look forward to continue working with Senator Murray and others for many years to come.”

The accolade, named for the longtime Washington congressman, is presented to those who have made significant contributions to local government while serving in public office.

The Municipal League of King County is a non-profit organization that promotes productive and transparent government by working to help increase the caliber of elected officials and policy-making decisions. It awarded the first Warren G. Magnuson Memorial to its namesake in 1981; other past winners include state Auditor Brian Sonntag and Secretary of State Sam Reed.