(Photo: REUTERS/Robert Sorbo)
Washington became the seventh state to recognize same-sex marriage on Monday as Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill into law during a ceremony at the statehouse with gay rights supporters and lawmakers.
The bill cleared the State House of Representatives last Wednesday and the Senate a week prior to that. Gregoire has long advocated for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington.
The law will not take effect until June 7, and opponents of same-sex marriage could delay gay wedding ceremonies by forcing a referendum onto the November ballot by collecting 120,577 signatures by June 6.
Speaking of the House vote that solidified the bill's passage last Wednesday, Gregoire spoke about the gravity of the legislature's actions.
"This is truly a historic day in Washington state, and one where I couldn't be more proud," Gregoire said in a statement. "With today's vote, we tell the nation that Washington state will no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love."
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which is already battling gay marriage efforts in New Jersey, Maine and Maryland while supporting California's Proposition 8 – which seeks to define marriage as a union between a man and a women – as it will likely head to the Supreme Court, vowed to collect enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in the fall.
NOM will work with the Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPI), who sent same-sex marriage opponents to the statehouse on Monday to call and pray for a veto from Gregoire. Out of 31 states that have put same-sex marriage as a referendum question, all 31 have voted against redefining marriage. NOM and FPI hope to continue the trend.
Same-sex marriage has plenty of support in Washington including state lawmakers, a 53 percent majority of citizens and high profile endorsements from Washington-based companies like Starbucks, Microsoft and Nike.
Six other states, incluing Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.