The Washington state Senate on Wednesday voted to pass a marriage equality bill by a margin of 28-21.
The packed public galleries burst into applause as the Senate passed the measure on a 28-21 vote Wednesday night after nearly an hour and a half of debate. Four Republicans crossed party lines and voted with majority Democrats for the measure. Three Democrats voted against it.
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, the bill’s sponsor, said he knew same-sex marriage “is as contentious any issue that this body has considered in its history.”
Lawmakers who vote against gay marriage “are not, nor should they be accused of bigotry” he said.
“Those of us who support this legislation are not, and we should not be accused of, undermining family life or religious freedom,” said Murray, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who has spearheaded past gay rights and domestic partnership laws in the state. “Marriage is how society says you are a family.”
An amendment to put the bill to a public referendum was voted down 26-23.
Gov. Gregoire, who in January placed her full support behind marriage equality legislation, praised the vote as “the best” of Washington, saying, “Tonight we saw the best of Washington and our leaders. Tonight, the Washington State Senate stood up for what is right and told all families in our state that they are equal and that the state cannot be in the business of discrimination.”
The legislation now heads before the state House where a strong Democratic majority is expected to pass the measure.
Gay marriage foes are already 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 can only file their ballot proposal after the legislation has been passed.