Fair-minded Republicans are setting a new standard for what it takes to be a viable statewide candidate in Washington. In announcing his support for the marriage equality bill (HB 2516 & SB 6239), Washington state Rep. Glenn Anderson (R-5, Fall River) becomes the fourth Republican in the legislature and the second Republican candidate for statewide office to support marriage equality.

Rep. Maureen Walsh (R-16, Walla Walla) is a lead co-sponsor on the House version of the bill while Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) and Sen. Cheryl Pflug (R-5 , Maple Valley) who serves the same legislative district as Rep. Anderson have recently signed on to the Senate bill.

Based on my investigation of the relevant criteria defining marriage, I have concluded the following in making my decision: First, the compelling primary purpose of civil marriage remains to provide a neutral and secular foundation for social order and an orderly transfer of property rights for the collective good, regardless of individual differences.

Second, the distinction between civil and religious marriage is a long-settled question between religious organizations and civil government in western culture. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that religious organizations have an exclusive exemption from employment discrimination liability and may legally employ only those persons that agree with and abide by their fundamental religious doctrine. In my view, civil same-sex marriage does not undermine the right of individuals to freely choose association with religious organizations that seek to encourage traditional marriage values with which they agree. Neither does it obstruct the ability to practice the values of religious marriage, either individually or with like-minded persons.

And third, there is sufficient physiological research and consistent historical record to suggest that homosexuality is a normal, if much less frequent, genetic expression of human biology. If race is a genetically acceptable criterion for constitutional equal protection under the law in the 14th Amendment, then genetic sexual orientation is closely related as a fundamental expression of human biology.

Rep. Anderson didn’t have to do this. Passage of the bill in the House seems certain even without his vote since 50 of the House’s 98 representatives have already signed on as co-sponsors. Rep Anderson, who earlier this month announced his run for the statewide office of lieutenant governor, could have taken the safe route and hidden his true support for equality behind a party-pleasing “no” vote he knows won’t impede the bill’s passage.

He chose integrity instead.

Earlier this month King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn (R) joined all five Democrats and two of the other three Republicans on the council in a vote to include an endorsement of the marriage equality bill in the county’s 2012 legislative agenda.

Since Dunn is running for the statewide office of attorney general being vacated by marriage equality opponent Rob McKenna, his vote has been hailed as a courageous stand. So too should Rep. Anderson’s be.