Washington State Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill
SEATTLE — Washington on Wednesday became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage, with the State House giving final passage to the bill and Gov. Christine Gregoire having promised to sign it.
The measure easily passed the State Senate last week, 28 to 21, despite concerns that the vote would be close.
The developments in Washington parallel an appeals court decision in California on Tuesday in which a panel of judges ruled 2 to 1 to strike down that state’s ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8. The two deciding judges wrote that the ban violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
Washington is among more than 30 states that have passed laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but it has steadily expanded rights for gay couples since 2007. That year, the Democratically controlled Legislature approved domestic partnerships. In 2009, it passed an “everything but marriage” bill. Full marriage rights began speeding toward approval last month, when Ms. Gregoire, a Democrat, announced that she would support the bill to make same-sex marriage legal.
The governor had previously said that she did not believe the state was ready for same-sex marriage and that churches should play a decisive role on the issue. Ms. Gregoire’s marriage bill, modeled after one approved by New York last June, allows churches and religious groups to choose not to perform same-sex marriages and to deny same-sex couples access to their facilities for marriage services.