Washington Gay Marriage Bill Passes; Governor Vows to Sign

Washington is poised to be the seventh U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage after the state legislature passed the bill Wednesday evening and the governor has vowed to sign it.

In a 55-43 vote, the state House passed the bill today, exactly a week after the state Senate approved the legislation. The Senate's vote last week, however, was closer: 28-21.

Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire said, "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."

She also said, "[W]e take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation."

But Republican state Rep. Jay Rodne (Snoqualmie) lamented the passage of the bill, saying it "severs the cultural, historical and legal underpinnings of the institution of marriage," according to The Associated Press.

"It contravenes human nature and it will hurt families and children."

The Senate vote was the biggest obstacle in the bill passing. But with that hurdle resolved last week, supporters were already expecting the House and the governor to quickly sign on.

Gregoire is expected to sign the measure into law next week, and it is scheduled to go into effect 90 days after that.

But opponents of the bill have one last option: putting the issue on the November ballot. They will need to gather 120,577 signatures by June 6 in order to force a referendum.

The news about Washington's same-sex marriage bill comes just a day after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco struck down Proposition 8, the California voter-approved measure that banned gay marriage, as unconstitutional.

Currently, gay marriage is recognized in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. Washington, D.C. also recognizes same-sex marriage.