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Washington State Headed Towards Legalizing Gay Marriage

Gov. Gregoire: "I look forward to signing this piece of legislation, and putting into law an end to an era of discrimination.”

Common Dreams staff

Washington legislators approved a bill legalizing gay marriage on Wednesday, a decision cheered by equality and civil liberties advocates.

The state House approved the measure yesterday by a 55-43 vote. The measure had already been approved last week in the state Senate by a 28-21 vote.

The Seattle Times reports that supporters rejoiced when the House vote was read:

Gay-marriage supporters packed the House galleries and burst into applause when the vote tally was announced.

John Breitweiser, 63, and Stuart Wilber, 73, both of Seattle, watched the debate from the Senate gallery. They've been together for 34 years and were already married in Vancouver, B.C., but said they'll probably get married in this state on their 35th anniversary.

"Getting married in Washington would be more meaningful because it's our own community," Breitweiser said.

The next stop for the bill is Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign the bill next week. A supporter of the bill, she tweeted last night:

She also released this official statement yesterday:

“This is truly a historic day in Washington state, and one where I couldn’t be more proud. 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. 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.

“I commend our House members and thank Rep. Jamie Pedersen for sponsoring this bill. Our legislators showed courage, respect, and professionalism. I look forward to signing this piece of legislation, and putting into law an end to an era of discrimination.”

Equality California celebrated the Washington decision. Clarissa Filgioun, board president, stated:

“The ability to marry the person you love is a fundamental freedom that loving, committed couples treasure. Marriage says “we are a family” in a way that no other word does. We applaud the Washington state legislature today for affirming that all couples and their families should have access to the security, dignity and respect that only marriage provides.

Yesterday, we celebrated as the Ninth Circuit court of appeals ruled that Proposition 8 violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Today, the Illinois legislature introduced a bill that would give same-sex couples in the state the freedom to marry. Together, each of these achievements represent an important step in advancing the freedom to marry for loving, committed couples not just in the state, but across the nation. They unequivocally signal that the tide has turned and we are closer than ever to securing full and lasting equality.”

Gov. Gregoire: "I look forward to signing this piece of legislation, and putting into law an end to an era of discrimination.”

The ACLU also praised the decision:

“Washingtonians should be proud of their legislature and their governor for standing on the right side of history by securing fairness and dignity for all families,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “When loving couples make the kind of commitment that is at the heart of marriage, it's not fair to exclude them from the protections that only marriage can provide.”

“Today is an early Valentine's Day,” said Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington. “We're so proud to have Washington join the ranks of states extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. More and more people are realizing that civil marriage should be available to and shared by all loving, committed couples."

Opponents of marriage equality have until June 6, the Associated Press reports, to submit over 120,000 signatures challenging the law. Even if they do, gay marriage advocates are still optimistic:

"In Washington state the majority of citizens have already been polled to say they support full marriage equality," Ned Flaherty, project manager for Marriage Equality USA told the Guardian.

"In that sense it doesn't matter if opponents put this on the ballot in November since they wouldn't get enough votes."

* * *

Gay marriage advocates celebrated another victory on Tuesday as California's anti-gay marriage prop. 8 was ruled unconstitutional.

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