Gov. Chris Gregoire handed gay rights advocates a major victory Monday, signing into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state, making it the seventh in the nation to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, The Huff Post reports.
“As governor for more than seven years, this is one of my proudest moments,” Gregoire said in remarks before signing the bill.
“We stood up for equality and we did it together – Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, young and old, and a variety of religious faiths. I’m proud of who and what we are in this state.”
“I’m proud our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal,” she said.
Accorsing to CBS News, Gregoire said she was confident Washington voters would vote for marriage equality even if the matter does end up on the November ballot.
“If asked, if asked, the voters of the state of Washington will say ‘yes’ to marriage equality in the state of Washington,” she said.
“Washingtonians will say ‘yes’ because a family is a family all facing the same challenges. Can we keep over our heads? Can we keep our jobs? Can we provide for children’s health and safety, education and happiness? I believe our Washingtonians will say because it’s time for us to stand up for our sons, our daughters, our brother, our sisters, our moms, our dads, our friends and the couple down the road.”
The legislation passed through the state House last week in a 55-43 vote; the previous week, it passed in the Senate by 28-21.
Gregoire’s signature comes nearly a week 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.
It’s a historic moment for the state, but same-sex couples can’t walk down the aisle just yet.
The law takes effect June 7, but opponents on multiple fronts already are preparing to fight.
Opponents of same-sex marriage in the state have vowed to undo the law in a ballot measure in November. In order to introduce the measure, they have to collect 120,577 signatures by June 6.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who opposes gay marriage, was in town speaking with conservative voters. Santorum also met with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol Monday afternoon.
Santorum said he encouraged gay-marriage opponents “to continue the fight.”
“There are ebbs and flows in every battle, and this is not the final word,” he said.
Washington state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and in 2009 passed an “everything but marriage” expansion of that law, which was ultimately upheld by voters after a referendum challenge.
Sen. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who is gay and has sponsored gay rights legislation for years, told the cheering crowd: “My friends, welcome to the other side of the rainbow. No matter what the future holds, nothing will take this moment in history away from us.”
Audrey Daye, of Olympia, cried as she watched Gregoire sign the bill into law. Daye, who grew up with two moms, brought her 7-year-old son, Orin, with her to watch the bill signing.
“I am so proud that our state is on the right side of history,” she said.
Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Legislative committees in Maryland heard testimony on gay marriage last week, and Maine could see a gay marriage proposal on the November ballot.
Proposed amendments to ban gay marriage will be on the ballots in North Carolina in May and in Minnesota in November.