Friday, February 10, 2012
When state Rep. Maureen Walsh gave a heartfelt speech this week in support of legalizing same-sex marriage, she was talking to 97 of her colleagues in the Legislature.
But the whole world was watching, and Walsh, R-Walla Walla, broke ranks with her party to support the legislation and found herself flooded with calls and emails Thursday after video of her speech went viral online.
"I can't believe what's going on. I just got an email from Ireland," Walsh told the Herald during a break in legislative action Thursday.
Walsh spoke during the Wednesday debate about the bond she shared with her late husband and her desire for all couples to be able to experience that kind of connection.
She also spoke about her love for her lesbian daughter and wanting to someday throw her daughter a wedding.
"I was proud of myself because I didn't cry," she said. "When I really got emotional was afterward when my daughter texted me and said, ‘You rock, Mom!'"
The video of Walsh's speech was posted to Facebook by actor George Takei, best known as "Mr. Sulu" on Star Trek, but in recent years a high-profile advocate for gay and lesbian rights and a popular social media figure since his own coming out.
"A glimpse inside the debates of the Washington Legislature on same-sex marriage equality. This mom of three really hits it home. It is hard to watch without choking up as she does," Takei's Facebook post said.
The video netted Walsh a mention from commentator Rachel Maddow as a "Best New Thing in the World Today."
The Huffington Post also posted a link to Walsh's speech.
Walsh was one of two Republicans in the House to vote Wednesday in favor of the bill allowing gay couples to marry in Washington The bill passed 55-43 and will be signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday.
Walsh said most of the calls and emails she has received have been positive and supportive.
"I got a couple of negative emails, too," she said.
A number of commenters on Takei's Facebook post, the YouTube video posted by Buzzfeed and the Buzzfeed page suggested Walsh should run for president.
"No thanks!" she said with a laugh.
Walsh said she would rather get back to work on the state's pressing issues, including the budget.
And although Walsh is the one gaining international attention from the debate, she commended her colleagues in the Legislature for their decorum.
"I'm just so impressed with my colleagues on the House floor," she said. "People were kind and gracious about this issue. It's tough to be the odd man out in the caucus, but my caucus has been so kind to me. I am so proud to work with these people."