After an extended legislative fight, the Washington State Senate has passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage, becoming the seventh state to do so. The Seattle Times reports:
The measure now heads to the House, where supporters say they have more than enough votes. It’s expected to pass as early as next week. The governor strongly supports the bill as well.
Overall, 24 Democrats and four Republicans voted for the bill. The state Senate, with its mix of conservative Republicans and conservative Democrats, always has been uncertain territory for any measure dealing with the rights of gays and lesbians.
In 2005, a gay-rights bill was defeated by one vote in the Senate. The landmark legislation won narrow approval a year later only after a Republican senator switched sides.
An amendment to the bill which would have submitted the question to a November referendum was also defeated, 26–23. However:
Under state law, opponents have 90 days from the end of the session to collect 120,577 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot. The regular session ends March 8. If opponents aren’t able to collect enough signatures, gay and lesbian couples would be able to be wed starting in June. Otherwise, they would have to wait until the results of a November election.