Taking a cue from New York, where a provision granting religious exemptions to a marriage equality law was considered key to its passage this summer (NYT), a bill in the Washington State Legislature to be introduced in January will make similar room for religious institutions to deny services to same-sex partners.
“We will have a provision in the bill we are drafting that emphasize religious groups will not be forced to marry anyone they do not wish to marry,” says Senator Ed Murray (D-43), who will be sponsoring the measure in the senate. Murray met with several members of the six-member LGBT caucus last Friday, he says, and the group coalesced around the provision that, in essence, reiterates the state Constitution’s robust protections for religious discretion. The language is not complete and lawmakers are "going back and forth," Murray says. It remains unclear if it will extend as far as New York’s measure that also allows churches to deny rental facilities and provides that if any portion of the law is struck down in court, the entire law is invalid.
While these concessions may be unconvincing to paranoid religious conservatives—who literally fear gay marriage will lead to bans on straight people raising children and force churches to marry leather daddies—it may be enough for the handful of senators on the fence to explain their support.
“There are people who are justifiably afraid and there are people who will create mass disinformation campaigns to scare people into thinking that the government is going to overturn their religious beliefs,” Murray says. “Right now we don’t have the votes in the senate. I think it is important emphasize that not trying to influence how churches operate.”
Murray adds: "Our supporters should not take it for granted that this is a done deal—we could lose as easily as win.