Washington state Rep. Maureen Walsh (R-Walla Walla) defies the rules that National Organization for Marriage would have you believe are unbreakable. She is a Republican representing a district where the majority of voters opposed even domestic partnerships, so if she is to get re-elected she must set aside her knowledge of what she knows is right and vote against marriage equality, right? Wrong!
Rep. Walsh co-sponsored the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill of 2009. For that she was criticized by some in her party and even officially censured by the Franklin County Republicans. Then she proceeded to win reelection by a landslide (78% to 22%) against her anti-gay Republican challenger.
For so many voters in Washington state, a strong anti-LGBT position is simply a deal breaker whereas a principled, fair-minded position is a winner. Fair-minded and principled — not to mention deeply authentic — is the only way to describe Rep. Walsh’s speech explaining her vote on Thursday for the marriage equality bill.
“I don’t wax as eloquently as most of the people on the floor here, but I’ve allowed my heart and my mind guide me in decisions that I’ve made on a lot of different issues that have been before us in the legislature. And I think sometimes that’s what we have to do.
“I too don’t want to wag my finger at anybody about which way you should vote on this. It’s certainly an issue of conscience to me, and certainly one that I have been weighing very heavily for the last few weeks.
“I was married for 23 years to the love of my life. He died 6 years ago, and you know, I’m a lonely old widow right now. I’m 51 yeas old, looking for a boyfriend. Not having much luck with that.
“And yet, when I think of my husband, and I think of all the wonderful years we had, and the wonderful fringe benefit of having three beautiful children, I don’t miss the sex. You know? And to me that’s kind of what this boils down to. I don’t miss that. I mean I certainly miss it, but it is certainly not the aspect of that relationship — that incredible bond I had with that human being — that I really, really genuinely wish I still had.
“So I think to myself, how could I deny the right to have that incredible bond with another individual in life? To me it seems almost cruel.
“You know, years ago my daughter was in elementary school. Many of you have met my daughter, she’s a fabulous girl. She’s wonderful. My boys are great too, but my daughter is just something special. She was the light of her fathers eyes.
“And she went to school and there was a whole group of kids just picking on another kid. And you know, my daughter stood up for that kid. Even though it wasn’t the popular thing to do, she knew it was the right thing to do.
“I was never more proud of my kid, knowing that she was speaking against the vocal majority on behalf of the rights of the minority. To me, it is incumbent upon us as legislators in this state to do that. That is why we are here.
“I shudder to think that if folks who have preceded us in history did not do that, frankly I’m not sure I would be here, as a woman. I’m not sure other people would be here due to their race or their creed.
“To me that is what’s disconcerting. Someone made the comment that this is not about equality. Well yes, it is about equality. Why in the world would we not allow those equal rights for those individuals who truly were committed to one another in life? To be able to show that by way of a marriage?
“My daughter came out of the closet a couple of years ago. And you know what, I thought I was just going to agonize about that. Nothin’s different. She’s still a fabulous human being, and she’s met a person that she loves very much, and some day, by God, I wanna throw a wedding for that kid.
“I hope that is exactly what I can do. I hope she will not feel like a second-class citizen involved in something called a “domestic partnership” that frankly sounds like a Merry Maids franchise to me.
“Thank you Mr. Speaker, that’s all I want to say. Thank you for the civil, wonderful debate today. It’s been great.