Whitman community responds to the passage of the same-sex marriage bill, Maureen Walsh video

Dylan Tull

Gay and civil rights activists celebrated a massive victory in Washington State when Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill to legalize same-sex marriage into law last Monday, Feb. 13. The bill, which appeared to slide through the Washington State Senate and House of Representatives with ease, was in fact met with some opposition. However, with strong support from both Republicans and Democrats, most notably Walla Walla Representative Republican Maureen Walsh, the bill will go into effect June 7.

Upon hearing the news of the bill being signed into law, Whitman students voiced their enthusiasm and excitement in everyday conversation and on the walls of Facebook. On that day, the video that went viral was not one of kittens playing with cheeseburgers, but one of Representative Walsh, giving a surprisingly impassioned and undeniably moving speech in defense of same-sex marriage.

“I was moved by Maureen Walsh’s testimony on behalf of the bill. It was one of the most honest political statements I have heard in a very long time. Definitely one of those restorative political moments for me,” senior Alice Minor said.   “I showed the video to a number of my friends and we were all so proud and moved. I cried.”

Whitman students and faculty took immense pride in seeing their Republican representative stand up for what she believed was right in the face of the backlash she received from her own party.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Jeremy Mims noted his appreciation for Walsh’s actions.

“I wrote [Rep. Maureen Walsh] an email this week, thanking her for her support, but she is getting a lot of pressure from her own party for supporting it,” he said.

Sophomore Phoebe Horvath, a member of GLBTQ at Whitman, spoke about Walsh’s support.

“I think it was a student, or maybe it was a faculty [member]: they sent [Maureen Walsh] an email. And she wrote back a personal response, saying, ‘Thank you so much for supporting me,’ because it is a pretty controversial thing to do out here in a rural community,” she said.

Walsh’s speech in defense of same-sex marriage was only one aspect of the excitement that surrounded the entire bill, however. For many Whitman community members, especially those who reside in Washington, the passing of the same-sex marriage bill represents a freedom for their future that was not present previously.

First year Evan Griffis, a member of GLBTQ at Whitman, spoke about how the passing of the same-sex marriage bill will affect his own life.

“I guess now I can start imagining my own wedding someday, whereas I used to never really think about it as a possibility. I feel like this is a fantastic time to be gay in Washington, and for that, I’m fortunate,” he said. “Of course, this doesn’t take marriage equality and other GLBTQ issues off of my mind, but enjoying a tangible success in my home state is something to really feel good about. I’m quite proud to be a Washingtonian after this.”

For Mims, who has been with his partner for eight years now and has his wedding planned, the signing of the bill into law is especially exciting news.

“We were already planning our wedding in March, in Kansas City. We’ve had that on the books for a long time, and we’re having our family and friends there in the church. Although it’s not legal in Missouri, we’re just doing it in the church. Now that this is happening in our own state, hopefully we can return here in the summer and make it official,” he said.

Despite the positive response that the bill has garnered, in light of the back and forth discussion over Proposition Eight in California, some students remain skeptical about the process.

“I was definitely happy to hear the bill passed the [Washington] House and Senate, but I try to not celebrate prematurely. I actually lived in California during the brief period that gay marriage was legalized, and I was more ecstatic back then until the whole Proposition Eight debacle. So for now I’m hesitant to get too excited,” Griffis said.

But for now, there is certainly enough cause for those who support the Same-Sex Marriage Bill in Washington State to celebrate.

“It seems like a winning moment for equality,” Horvath said.