The Washington House passed the bill on a 55-43 vote, reports The Huff Post. Supporters in the public viewing galleries stood and cheered as many on the Democratic side of the House floor hugged after the vote.
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 state Senate approved the measure last week, and the bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law next week.
“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,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Demorcrat who has vowed to sign it.
“We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state. And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
According to Reuters, several prominent Washington-based companies employing tens of thousands of workers in the state also endorsed the bill, including Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks.
Representative Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat who has four young children with his gay companion of 10 years, arguing that the state’s domestic-partnership law falls short.
“I would like our four children to understand … that their daddy and their papa have made that lifelong commitment to each other,” he said. “Thousands of same-sex couples in our state deserve the respect and protection from our government that only marriage can convey.”
“Like thousands of other same-sex couples, my partner Eric and I are very grateful for these protections that the law now provide,” said state Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat, moments before the vote.
“But domestic partnership is a pale and inadequate substitute for marriage,” he said.
Supporters of same-sex marriage are pushing similar statutes in Maryland and New Jersey, and a referendum to legalize gay marriage in Maine has qualified for the November ballot there.
Six other states already recognize gay marriage — New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa — as does the District of Columbia.
Representative Jay Rodne, a Republican who said he was guided by his Roman Catholic faith to oppose gay marriage, decried the bill as tantamount to “progressive reengineering in its most extreme and damaging form.”
Marriage is about life,” he said, according to CNN. “It’s about joining that man and that woman as husband and wife and mother and father, linking them with their natural-born children or adoptive parents and carrying forward our civilization.”
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.
The initiative would need 241,153 signatures of registered voters by July 6 to secure a place on the November ballot. A repeal would need just half the number of signatures by June 6.
In October, a University of Washington poll found that an increasing number of people in the state support same-sex marriage.
About 43 percent of respondents said they support gay marriage, up from 30 percent in the same poll five years earlier. Another 22 percent said they support giving identical rights to gay couples, without calling the unions “marriage.”
In 2009, Maine state legislators passed a same-sex marriage bill that drew subsequent challenges by opponents who pushed for a referendum that ultimately overturned the law with 53% of the vote. Proponents are trying to get it back on the ballot this year. Gay rights advocates have already garnered thousands of signatures in an effort to force a second referendum in November.
In California, a 2008 public vote outlawed gay and lesbian couples’ right to wed.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday against California’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban, known as Proposition 8.