Rep. Maureen Walsh's stance on same-sex marriage has drawn an opponent from her own party in this year's race for Position 1 in the 16th Legislative District.
Prosser teacher Mary Ruth Edwards won the endorsement of the Franklin County Republicans for the position in the state House of Representatives largely because Walsh, a Walla Walla Republican, voted in favor of the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington.
The Legislature passed the bill earlier this year, but voters will have the opportunity to affirm or reject it via Referendum 74 on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Walsh was one of two Republicans in the House to cross party lines and vote for the bill. She also delivered an impassioned floor speech in favor of granting same-sex couples marriage rights that went viral on social media.
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Edwards told the Herald that Walsh's support for the bill was one of the biggest reasons she entered the race.
"I believe to redefine marriage opens doors to possible problems in society," Edwards said.
Walsh previously was censured by the Franklin County Republicans when she co-sponsored Washington's "everything but marriage" domestic partnership law.
"Just to poke them in the eye, I came back and sponsored the marriage equality bill when I learned it wasn't really accurate that it was the 'everything but marriage' bill. I still think it is the right thing to do," Walsh said. "Allowing anything else for the citizens of this country if they're gay or purple or green is just discriminatory."
Walsh said her support was in part because her daughter came out as a lesbian in the two years since the domestic partnership bill passed.
"I said, 'My daughter is a fabulous person, and I'm not going to sit still and let my daughter be considered a second-class citizen,' " Walsh said.
Edwards said she believes the "conjugal definition" of marriage -- one man and one woman producing children -- is the correct one for society, even though she acknowledged her own divorce shows that scenario doesn't always work out.
"It is the ideal to provide a stable environment," she said. "A mother and father provide role models for children."
She said that when children don't have a male and female role model in the family, they end up missing something.
She added that adopted children also miss out on something by not knowing their biological parents.
"We do not need to redefine something that has worked for the last several thousand years," Edwards said.
Despite not being endorsed by the Franklin County Republicans, Walsh has been endorsed by Republican groups in other counties in the district, which spans from Walla Walla to Prosser and includes about half of Pasco and a sliver of Kennewick.
Walsh noted that she also earned 68 percent of the Franklin County vote in the August primary.
"That surprised the heck out of me, especially after the marriage equality vote," she said. "I thought I was going to burn for that one."
Walsh's position pays $42,106.
Ballots are scheduled to be mailed Oct. 17 and must be returned or postmarked by Nov. 6.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org