"There are strong feelings on this bill," Pedersen said to the crowd in a plea for civility. "But we are not going to tolerate disrespect. I understand that there has been some name-calling and pushing out in the halls. We are not going to tolerate that in here and neither will security."
Constituents against the bill outnumbered those for the bill nearly 3 to 1.
Wearing white "Vote No! on 1727 and 5688" stickers and matching pins featuring the silhouette of a man and a woman, the members of the crowd cheered, applauded and yelled amen while their side spoke, despite repeated requests from legislators to be silent.
"We can't have outbreaks like that if we are to have people coming up to testify," Pedersen told the crowd. "It's against the rules."
The crowd booed.
Many of the people against the bill were children who looked to have been pulled out of middle school to attend the hearing. Pubescent youth leaned against walls, wearing their oversized "Vote No" stickers - many appeared bored and disinterested. One mother scolded her son for putting his "Marriage is between a Man and a Woman" pin in his mouth.
Those for the bill sat in front of the angry crowd and told personal stories about their families. Pairs of mothers introduced their children, and a gay firefighter spoke of his fear of dying on the job and being unable to leave anything to his partner of 13 years.
The opposition to the bill spoke just as passionately, although their arguments seldom were about the bill itself. Pastors, church groups and concerned citizens from Eastern Washington threatened the collapse of the public school system, the dissolution of the economy due to rising gay health care costs and burning in hell.
Pedersen sat quietly during much of the testimony; his hands clasped across his mouth as he listened to women talk of their experience "working with the ex-gay" community. Repeatedly, he and other Representatives interrupted to remind those against the bill that this was not a "gay marriage" bill, nor an opportunity to preach about the Bible.
"I'm sorry," Pedersen said repeatedly. "I really wish that you could speak to the bill."