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Washington Senate passes gay marriage bill

The Washington Senate late on Feb. 1 approved a marriage equality bill by a 28-21 vote. The measure faces likely success in the House and Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire has pledged to sign the bill into law if it reaches her desk.

With her signature, Washington would become the seventh state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

The legislative timetable would have the House vote as early as Feb. 8, the governor sign the bill soon after and couples marrying as early as June.

But opponents, funded by the National Organization of Marriage, have pledged a ballot measure to block gay marriages. If they file at least 120,577 valid signatures by June 6, the issue would be put on the November ballot and same-sex weddings likely would be put on hold.

The Senate vote followed a debate on marriage before a crowded gallery that included proponents and opponents. Discussion covered about a dozen amendments, including several changes to strengthen provisions protecting religious freedoms that were adopted and one allowing wedding professionals to refuse customers that was rejected.

The 28-21 tally went largely along party lines, with the majority of Democrats voting in favor. Three Democrats voted against the bill.

Sen. Ed Murray, who is openly gay, sponsored the measure. He urged against name-calling as the struggle over the legislation continues.

Those who vote against same-sex marriage are not bigots, Murray said, and those who vote for same-sex marriage “are not, and we should not be accused of, undermining family life or religious freedom.”

Murray, before the vote, added that even lawmakers who cast a “no” would be getting an invitation to his wedding with Michael Shiosaki, his partner of 20 years.

Legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington would lead to the dissolution of the state’s domestic partnership program for same-sex couples. But partnerships would remain an option for seniors over 62 years old who, to not wanting to lose Social Security benefits, don’t want to marry or remarry.

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