The Washington House of Representatives has followed the state Senate and passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that state, which Gov. Chris Gregoire has pledged to sign. The bill also contains very strong protections for religious organizations:
No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, license, or refuse to contract with any religious organization based on the opposition to or refusal to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.
No religiously affiliated educational institution shall be required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, including a use of any campus chapel or church. A religiously affiliated educational institution shall be immune from a civil claim or cause of action, including a claim … based on its refusal to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage under this subsection shall be immune for civil claim or cause of action…
“Religious organization” as defined in this chapter must be interpreted liberally to include faith-based social service organizations involved in social services directed at the larger community.
“Religious organization” includes, but is not limited to, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, nondenominational ministries, interdenominational and ecumenical organizations, mission organizations, faith-based social agencies, and other entities whose principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion.
So it does not appear that this protects businesses owned by people with religious objections, unless the principal purpose of the business is religious, but I don’t know if other state laws would apply in such situations or not. It also does not appear to apply to government officials refusing to issue licenses, which I would imagine — and hope — is still a violation of someone’s civil rights. It’s one thing to say that a florist or a wedding photographer is not required to provide services to a same-sex wedding; it’s quite another to say that a government official, like a clerk, doesn’t have to treat people equally.