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Gay Marriage Signed into Law in Washington State, Passes Senate in New Jersey

Common Dreams staff

Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire announces her support for legislation that would legalize gay marriage in the state, in Olympia, Washington, January 4, 2012. (REUTERS/Robert Sorbo)

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire today signed a marriage equality bill into law making the northwestern state the seventh in the nation to pass such a measure.  Though challenges await the new law, which won't go into effect until June, gay rights and civil rights advocates celebrated a victory alongside the governor.

Within hours of the passage in Washington, the New Jersey State Senate passed a marriage equality bill of its own. Republican Governor Chris Christie has vowed to veto the bill.

The Associate Press reports from Washington state:

Gregoire signed the bill in the state reception room in the Capitol, surrounded by gay rights supporters. It's a historic moment, but same-sex couples can't walk down the aisle just yet.

The law takes effect June 7, but opponents are already mounting challenges on multiple fronts.

Opponents planned to file a challenge Monday that could put the law on hold pending the outcome of a November vote. Separately, an initiative was filed at the beginning of the session that opponents of gay marriage say could lead to the new law being overturned.

The Democratic governor signed the bill as Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who opposes gay marriage, was in town speaking with conservative voters.

And from New Jersey:

New Jersey lawmakers gave their blessing to legalizing gay marriage for the first time Monday as the state Senate passed a bill that would allow nuptials for same-sex couples, despite Gov. Chris Christie's insistence that he will veto such legislation.


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The Senate's 24-16 vote sends the bill to the Assembly, which is expected to pass it on Thursday.

Monday's vote contrasts with the only other gay-marriage vote taken in the Legislature. In January 2010, gay marriage supporters thought they had built a narrow majority in the Senate, but senators began to defect, and the measure was defeated 20-14. Since then, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, has changed his position. He says he regrets abstaining two years ago and has made gay marriage recognition a top priority.

"It means the world isn't changing, it means the world has already changed," said Steven Goldstein, chariman of Garden State Equality, the state's largest gay rights organization. "So wake up and smell the equality."

Two Democrats and two Republicans went against their party lines in the vote. Sen. Jennifer Beck, a Republican from Red Bank, voted for allowing gay marriage. "It is my opinion that our republic was established to guarantee liberty to all people," she said. "It is our role to protect all of the people who live in our state."

Santorum's apperance in Washington today and Christie's veto threat in New Jersey make plain the chasm that exists between those championing marriage equality across the country with those on the conservative right who continue to fight such efforts. Rick Santorum, who touts his opposition to gay marriage consistently in his campaign rhetoric, mounted a bizarre argument on the subject with a group of college students during a campaign appearance last month in New Hampshire:

And here is Gov. Christie speaking to CNN's Piers Morgan last year:

And though this kind of "reason" continues to resonate with America's socially conservative base, the trend towards marriage equality for all is clear. 

According to Marriage Equality USA:

With the enactment of full marriage equality in Washington state today, over 42% of Americans now live in the 21 states that offer some form of  legal recognition at the state level for same-sex relationships. U.S. Map illustrating 21 states that offer partial equality as well as 30 states with various bans on marriage. (pdf)

"Like New York State before it, Washington demonstrates that leadership with vision from the Governor and bipartisan support in the legislature is the winning combination to advancing civil rights."


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