OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state lawmakers voted to approve gay marriage Wednesday, setting the stage for the state to become the seventh in the nation to allow same-sex couples to wed.
The action comes a day after a federal appeals court declared California’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, saying it was a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples.
The Washington House passed the bill on a 55-43 vote. Supporters in the public viewing galleries stood and cheered as many on the Democratic side of the House floor hugged after the vote.
Gregoire watched the vote in the wings with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, who is gay and has sponsored gay rights legislation for years. Murray said the vote marked “a day that will be remembered in the history of this state.”
Gregoire issued a statement after the vote, saying it was “a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
Democratic Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who also has sponsored gay rights bills for several years, said that he and his partner have been grateful for the rights that exist under the state’s domestic partnership laws but such protections are “a pale and inadequate substitute for marriage.”
Pedersen, during his remarks on the House floor, read from Tuesday’s ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, citing a section that stated “marriage is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults.”
Several Republicans argued against the bill, saying that it goes against the tradition of marriage. Rep. Jay Rodne said the measure “severs the cultural, historical and legal underpinnings of the institution of marriage.”
Despite the action, gay couples can’t begin walking down the aisle just yet.
The proposal would take effect 90 days after the session ends next month but opponents have promised to fight gay marriage with a ballot measure that would allow voters to overturn the legislative approval.
If opponents gather enough signatures to take their fight to the ballot box, the law would be put on hold pending the outcome of a November election. Opponents must turn in more than 120,000 signatures by June 6 if they want to challenge the proposed law. Otherwise gay couples could wed starting in June.
Several Republican amendments were rejected, including one that would have added private businesses and individuals, such as bakers and photographers, to the exemption in the measure that doesn’t require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages and doesn’t subject them to penalties if they don’t marry gay or lesbian couples. Another would have required a one-month residency requirement before people could get married in Washington.
Two Republicans crossed the aisle and voted in favor of the bill. Three Democrats voted against it. Democrats hold a 56-42 majority in the House.
Washington state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and more than a dozen other states have provisions, ranging from civil unions to gay marriage, supporting same-sex couples.View Entire Story
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