OLYMPIA, January 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A same-sex “marriage” bill that would force church-run facilities to open their doors to homosexual couples seeking marriage has passed a key committee in the Washington state Senate. The full Senate is expected also to approve the bill.
SB 6239 passed the Government Operations, Tribal Relations & Election Committee on a 4-3 party-line vote on Thursday, and the full Senate is expected to vote on the measure this week. The measure, which would make Washington the seventh U.S. state to alter the definition of marriage, reportedly has the backing of Gov. Chris Gregoire. The measure is expected to pass the Senate after a statement from Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen last Monday announced she would support SB 6239, giving it the 25th needed vote.
Meanwhile, one of the area’s leading evangelical pastors has said that the bill’s language on marriage “discrimination” is “the setup for a knockdown” of religious institutions that oppose redefining marriage.
“The laws against discrimination are so expansive that virtually every church in Washington could come under legal threat,” wrote pastor Joseph Fuiten. Fuiten notes that, although the bill’s introduction says that clergy and churches won’t be forced to marry a homosexual couple, it adds a new discrimination section to state marriage law.
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The bill further states that religious organizations that provide “accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage” to the public must offer all those goods for use to homosexual couples seeking marriage or else face a penalty for discrimination.
“You don’t add discrimination for the first time without an intention to use it,” said the pastor.
“They already have equality but that is not what they actually want. They want to force the church to accept homosexuality.”
Nina Shapiro, writing for the Seattle Times, criticized Fuiten’s reaction but noted that the lead sponsor of the bill in the House, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, confirmed that the language was meant to force religiously-affiliated businesses that regularly participate in weddings to comply with homosexual “marriages,” what he called “a wedding-chapel kind of thing.”
“We didn’t want to create an opportunity for [those businesses] to discriminate,” said Pedersen.
A hearing on the bill last Monday was packed to overflowing with hundreds of supporters and opponents who lined up hours before the 10 a.m. scheduled start to express their opinion on the bill.
The National Organization for Marriage last week pledged that, should the bill pass, it would commence a referendum campaign to fight the measure at the ballot. One Republican on the senate committee had attempted to amend the measure to require voter approval of the redefinition before becoming law, but his amendment was rejected.
Laws granting privileges to homosexual couples in other states have already led to dozens of legal clashes with local Christian institutions and individuals opposing the redefinition of marriage. A judge in New Jersey ruled this month that a Christian retreat house must allow a lesbian couple to perform a civil union ceremony on its premises.