In three states, personal stories changed gay marriage

March 6, 2012 at 10:34 am

Washington State Republican Rep. Maureen Walsh addresses the house during debate on a bill that she co-sponsored that would legalize gay marriage in the state, in Olympia in this February 8, 2012 file photo.

(Reuters) – The personal experiences of friends, family or constituents persuaded a crucial group of Republican lawmakers to vote for same-sex marriage in three state legislatures last month, in some cases tipping the balance in favor of legalizing gay matrimony.

Among them were two Washington state legislators with gay relatives, a New Jersey state senator who changed her mind while working on an anti-bullying measure and a Maryland state House delegate inspired by a gay couple coping with cancer.

“All politics is personal,” Republican Washington state Senator Steve Litzow said in explaining his vote to support gay marriage legislation.

“If people have a personal connection, know ‘this is somebody I love and care about,’ I think that makes a huge difference,” said Litzow, one of four Republican state senators who helped the measure pass in Washington state by a vote of 28 to 21.

Gay marriage is one of the defining “culture wars” issues dividing the United States during the 2012 presidential election year. Supporters see it as a question of civil rights and equality for gay Americans. Opponents see it as morally wrong and an attack on traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

At the state level, where there has been surprising momentum for same sex marriage this year, some lawmakers put the ideological wars aside and responded to the personal pleas.

They did so at great political risk. Most of the Republican converts were met with impassioned resistance from fellow members of their party. Activists pledged to defeat them in the next election cycle, and in some cases constituents confronted them angrily.

But in separate interviews, each told Reuters that they were willing to lose their elected office in order to stand up for what they believed was a basic civil rights issue.

During an emotional debate on the floor of the Washington state House of Representatives in early February, Republican Maureen Walsh spoke of being frustrated that her lesbian daughter could not legally marry her girlfriend.

“She’s met the person that she loves very much and someday, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid,” Walsh told her fellow legislators on the floor of the House. “I hope she won’t feel like a second-class citizen.”

Read the full article from Reuters.


Entry filed under: News.

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