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Washington State Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Measure

On Wednesday, the state senate in Washington passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. This sets the stage for Washington to become the seventh state in the nation to allow lesbian and gay couples to marry.

The bill now visits the House, which many believe will approve it. The state’s governor, Chris Gregoire, approves of the measure and has said that he will sign it into law. Opponents of the measure have vowed to challenge it at the ballot with a referendum.

The measure was passed by the Senate by a vote of 28-21 on Wednesday night, which came after an hour and a half of debate on the floor. There were four Republicans who crossed party lines to vote with majority Democrats. There were three Democrats who voted against the measure.

Ed Murray, a Democratic Senator and the sponsor of the bill, said that he knew same-sex marriage “is as contentious any issue that this body has considered in its history.”

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He also described lawmakers who vote against same-sex 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. “Marriage is how society says you are a family.”

Dan Swecker, a Republican Senator from Rochester, argued that the proposed measure alters the definition of marriage and “will lead to the silencing of those who believe in traditional marriage.”

Opponents to the law have promised to fight the issue, but this cannot be done until it is passed by the full Legislature and then signed into law by Gregoire. The opponents must then provide 120,577 signatures by June 6. Should opponents not be able to collect enough signatures, same-sex couples will be able to start marrying in June. The opponents would then have to wait until elections in November to make a move against the bill.

An opponent of gay marriage, Jane Sterland, said that she was disappointed by the small turnout of opponents to the issue.

“It saddens me that there aren’t more Christians here tonight,” she said. “I’m just very grieved about this whole thing. I want to be here for prayer support against this issue.”

Alex Guenser drove to Olympia from Redmond to watch the Senate debate with his boyfriend.

“I feel like this is the hill, the crest of the marriage equality fight. And after this passes (in the Senate), it’s all going to be smoother sailing from now on,” Guenser said. “I’m really excited to have Washington pass this. I’m excited for my state.”

The other states that legalized same-sex marriage include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Three other states are debating gay marriage this year including New Jersey and Maryland, while a proposal could be on the November ballot in Maine.

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