Sen. Benton drags feet during vote on same-sex marriage bill

Vancouver-based state senators Craig Pridemore, a Democrat, and Don Benton, a Republican, butted heads while voting this morning on whether to pass the controversial same-sex marriage bill out of committee. Despite the opposition, the bill was passed out of the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Affairs and Elections committee on a 4-3 party-line vote.

Benton seemed intent on stalling the vote. He first asked that a referendum be added to the legislation, which would require the public to vote to approve the bill. Pridemore, the committee chair, called Benton’s request “out of order,” saying that referendums aren’t typically added to bills at this stage in the process. Opponents of the bill have said they plan to eventually add a referendum to the legislation.

When the senators were about to vote on the bill again, Benton interrupted to ask whether a fiscal note showing the cost of the bill was available. Bills with a significant financial impact must also pass through the Senate Ways and Means committee. Pridemore indicated that a fiscal note is being worked on, but that he did not think the bill would need to go to Ways and Means.

Another Republican senator on the committee, Dan Swecker of Rochester, tried to add four amendments onto the bill. Each amendment was rejected by a 4-3 vote along party lines.

Needless to say, Pridemore, voted in support of the bill and Benton voted against it. The bill will soon be sent to receive a debate on the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 6329, and its companion, House Bill 2516, both received hearings Monday. The House will vote Jan. 30 on whether to pass its version of the legislation out of the Judiciary committee.

Apart from the label of marriage, domestic partnership benefits in Washington are nearly identical to marriage benefits. That includes, among other things, the ability to make medical decisions for an incapacitated domestic partner and the option to add a domestic partner to a family health insurance plan provided by an employer.

Those same-sex benefits end at the state line. The federal government, bound by the Defense of Marriage Act, doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships or same-sex marriage. Hence, same-sex couples would receive none of the federal benefits of marriage.

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