Washington State on the Road to Same-Sex Marriage Equality, Perhaps Within a Week

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The Washington State Senate passed a bill paving the way for same-sex marriages last night. Before the vote was taken, same-sex marriage watchers believed that it could be a very tight vote. However, it ultimately passed comfortably 28 to 21. It will now move on the Washington's House, where it is expected to pass easily, and could be on to Governor Chris Gregoire's desk within a week, who's said she will sign it into law.

If this happens, Washington will join Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut, New York, and the District of Columbia as one of a handful of U.S. localities where same-sex couples enjoy legal equality.

There are, of course, a couple of catches. The road to marriage is never simple for same-sex couples, and Washington's path looks like it will be more close to California's than to New York's.

As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, a number of amendments were debated and rejected, including one that said marriage should be put up for a referendum vote in November. However, if anti-equality forces can gather 120,577 signatures by June 6 (they have to wait for the bill to pass before they can begin), they can put same-sex marriage on the ballot anyway.

If they get the signatures, gay and lesbian couples must wait for the November election results to wed (if their fellow citizens give them the right to marry). If they don't get the signatures, gay and lesbian couples will be able to hear church bells in June.

However, not one person who knows same-sex marriage history whom we've spoken with believes for a second that anti-equality organizations likes NOM can't scrounge together 120,577 signatures in several months.

Also, there's this interesting point from the Atlantic Wire should the bill pass: "Washington already has a domestic partnership law that passed in 2007, but under the new bill, any couple that doesn't end their partnership within two years would automatically become married." We can imagine there are even some gay couples who might not be happy about this, like the partnered marriage equality activists we profiled last year.

Unlike some other states, there is no worry about New York's Marriage Equality Act being overturned because we don't have a voter referendum process like California or Washington.

@steven_thrasher | sthrasher@villagevoice.com


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