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Gov. Chris Gregoire signs Washington state marriage equality bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire signs Washington state marriage equality bill

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Governor Chris Gregoire on Monday signed into law the measure passed last week by the state legislature that legalizes same-sex marriage, making Washington state the seventh in the nation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

“I’m proud our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal,” Gregoire said to cheers and applause during a ceremony in the ornate reception room of the Olympia statehouse.

Chris Gregoire

“This is a very proud moment. … I’m proud of who and what we are as a state,” she said.

The ceremony was packed with hundreds of LGBTQ activists and supporters, and at least 40 lawmakers from both bodies of the legislature.

State Senator Ed Murray,(D-Seattle) who is openly gay and a sponsor of numerous bills advocating for gay rights, told the boisterous audience, “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.”

State Rep. Jamie Pederson (D-Seattle), who is also openly gay and the sponsor of the bill in the House, thanked Gregoire for taking “a significant risk” to support the legislation and for being the governor to do “the most in U.S. history” to advance the cause of equal rights for LGBT people.

In 2006, Gregoire signed legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and other areas. In 2007, Substitute Senate Bill 5336 created the state’s domestic partnership registry.

A year later, Gregoire signed House Bill 3104 which added additional rights and responsibilities relating to issues such as dissolution, community property, estate planning, taxes, court process, conflicts of interest for public officials and guardianship; and in 2009, Gregoire signed an “everything but marriage” expansion of that law, which was ultimately upheld by voters after a referendum challenge.

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.

The law, which takes effect June 7, is being decried by anti-gay forces, some of whom planned to file a referendum challenge as early as this afternoon that could stay the law from taking affect pending the outcome of a November ballot initiative vote.

A referendum to repeal the marriage equality bill would require 120,577 signatures of registered voters by June 6 to secure a place on the November ballot.

If opponents gather enough petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot, the same-sex marriage law would be suspended until the election and certification of returns — meaning December 6, before it is either repealed or goes into effect.

A second option — a ballot initiative to define marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman — would require 241,153 signatures gathered by July 6 to secure a position on the ballot

Following is video of the sigining ceremony:

The Washington State legislature was the ninth state to have approved marriage equality — either through the legislature (five states), the courts (two), or both (two).

Two of those states (California and Maine) had their laws reversed by voters, so Washington, if voters reject the expected repeal effort, would become the seventh state, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage — the other six states are New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont.

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