UPDATED: Gay-Marriage Bill to Clear the House Today; Amendment Proposed to Exempt Gonzaga, Seattle U

UPDATE: The Washington state House this afternoon passed the gay marriage bill by a vote of 55-43. It is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire early next week. Click here for details of today's debate in Seattle PI.com.

Washington's gay-marriage measure should clear its final hurdle this afternoon when the state House votes on the legislation, SB 6239, which the Senate passed 28-21 a week ago. What gives today's session a little extra spice is a proposed amendment to exempt religiously affiliated schools like Gonzaga and Seattle University from having to accommodate gay weddings in their chapels.

Under that amendment -- which found its way into the Senate bill following pressure from religious groups -- the schools could not be sued for refusing to allow a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Seattle U.'s president, the Rev. Stephen Sundborg, said the amendment protects "us from having to make our chapels available for same-sex marriages."

He tells The Seattle Times, "To require us to utilize them for this purpose would violate our identity and commitment as a Catholic university."

The amendment was written into the original legislation, but a number of religious leaders didn't think it went far enough. They also want the right to refuse to "recognize" gay marriage so they don't have to provide marriage counseling to a gay couple, for example. Also, they wanted to remove from the measure a reference to the state's current marital laws as "discriminatory."

Some of the amendments that were rejected include a proposal to exempt judges and court administrators who have religious objections from participating in a gay wedding, and an amendment to exempt florists and photographers with similar views.

Today's vote comes on the heels of a federal appeals court ruling declaring that California's gay-marriage ban (Proposition 8) is unconstitutional. Click here for Seattle Weekly's post on the 9th Circuit's decision.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign the bill into law early next week, making Washington the seventh state to permit gay marriages.

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