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Off the Record

Same-sex marriages step in right direction

The same-sex marriage bill before the state legislature is on its way to passage. And all I have to say is it's about time.

It's a great thought that soon my gay and lesbian friends might be able to marry and share in the rights to be treated somewhat fairly. At least it's a start. But what's not so great is how long it's taken us to get here.

But what some people don't know is the new bill also adds language to include freedoms to religious institutions that extend beyond the Christian realm.

For couples, the new bill says "marriage is a civil contract between two persons," where it currently reads "between a male and a female."

In addition to affording marriage rights for both heterosexual and same-sex couples, the bill also emphasizes that religious institutions will not be penalized for opting out of formalizing wedding ceremonies they oppose.

The current marriage bill uses one word to describe religious institutions and clergy, "priests." Washington Senate Bill 6239 amends the current marriage bill to also include imams (Islamic leaders) and rabbis (Jewish leaders) to those who are permitted to perform wedding ceremonies.

It also reads, "No regularly licensed or ordained minister or any priest, imam, rabbi or similar official of any church or religious domination is required to solemnize any marriage."

This addition protects religious entities from legal action if they choose to refuse to perform any wedding ceremony.

Many are up in arms about the same-sex marriage proposal, but in fact, this bill also extends and recognizes that there are other religious sects out there that count just as much.

The State House is slated to vote on the measure today (Wednesday) and it's predicted that it will easily pass. From there, it goes on to the governor's desk, who's already indicated she'll sign the legislation into law.

There is a promise from the opposition to file a referendum and even if voters in this state choose not to recognize same-sex marriages, this legislation that gained support from lawmakers in Olympia is still a start in the right direction.

I think it's a sign that we're headed towards a more well-rounded society where we can live together, even though we might disagree; and that's all I could really ask for.

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