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Civil marriage for gays gets new push in Washington

A broad, statewide coalition of organizations, congregations, unions and business associations announced on Monday the formation of Washington United for Marriage - a coalition that will work to obtain civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Washington state in 2012.

The list of supporting members includes faith-based organizations such as the Faith Action Network and Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, unions including SEIU Washington State Council and UFCW 21, and numerous advocacy organizations and business associations across the state.

The grassroots effort is led by a group of the state's leading human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Equal Rights Washington, Human Rights Campaign, Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.

"The freedom to marry the person you love is fundamental to a democratic society," said Jennifer Shaw, deputy director of the ACLU of Washington. "The ACLU has joined Washington United for Marriage because it is a matter of basic fairness that all loving, committed couples should be able to marry."

Washington United for Marriage wants to mobilize constituents to talk to their legislators before and during the 2012 legislative session to ensure that the majority of Washington state citizens who support marriage equality have their voices heard. The goal is to have legislation legalizing civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire next year.

"Now is the time to act to protect and strengthen all families in Washington state," said Lacey All, foundation and national board of directors, Human Rights Campaign. "As we face the challenges of the current economic climate together, no family should be confronted with additional burdens to care for their loved ones."

Washington United for Marriage plans to build momentum and support over the coming months by engaging constituents throughout Washington state at a series of town hall meetings held at various places of worship and community centers in every corner of the state.

"Though we come from different parts of Washington state, we are united in ensuring that all of Washington's gay and lesbian couples can legally marry," said Rod Hearne, executive director of Equal Rights Washington, the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization.

"Countless individuals have a story to tell about why civil marriage matters to them, and we will work neighbor-to-neighbor to ensure the voices of the loving and committed couples in Washington, many raising children, are heard," said Hearne.

A community meeting will be held in Richland next Monday, Nov. 21, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Shalom United Church of Christ (505 McMurray St.).

For more information visit WashingtonUnitedForMarriage.org. Engage with Washington United for Marriage on social media at Twitter.com/WA4Marriage and at Facebook.com/WashingtonUnited.

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