Washington governor Chris Gregoire signed on Monday a bill that could make Washington the next state to legalize marriage equality.
Gregoire signed the bill in the state reception room in the Capitol, surrounded by gay rights supporters. “I’m proud our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal,” Gregoire said.
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 state reception room at the Capitol was packed with gay rights supporters and at least 40 lawmakers from the House and Senate.
In what has been rapid progress for the bill since Gov. Gregoire’s announcement that she supported same-sex marriage in January, the Washington state Senate passed the bill 28-21 with four Republicans crossing party lines to vote with the Democratic majority, while the state House of Representatives by a 55-43 vote last Wednesday.
If unimpeded the law will take effect in June with Washington becoming the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage (discounting Maine and California), following in the footsteps of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, and New York.
As mentioned above, plans are already afoot to curtail Washington’s progress though, with foes of gay marriage planning to put marriage equality to a public vote. Opponents will require 120, 577 signatures by July 6 in order to qualify for the November ballot, but could only file their ballot proposal after the legislation was signed. If a ballot measure is filed the law cannot come into effect until the public have voted. A constitutional amendment to outlaw marriage equality is also being considered.
Finally, to celebrate this momentus event, the Human Rights Campaign released the following video: