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Washington becomes 7th state to legalize gay marriage

Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed legislation making Washington state the seventh in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

The bill-signing took place in Olympia.

Celebrations were planned throughout the rest of Feb. 13, including a reception outside the Capitol, a party and a concert. An announcement of events from Equal Rights Washington noted that a lobby day scheduled for Feb. 16 was canceled due to “our success in securing marriage equality.”

The Democratic governor signed the bill with same-sex couples looking on. She said, "We're here to make history here in the great state of Washington. This is a very proud day.... A day that we did what was right, what was just, what was fair."

The law takes effect on June 7, but a campaign for a voter referendum on the legislation is in the works and likely will delay any marriages until after the November election. Opponents of marriage equality, led by the National Organization for Marriage, were waiting for Gregoire to sign the bill to launch their challenge. They must submit more than 120,000 signatures on petitions by June 6.

Same-sex marriage also is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and plus the District of Columbia.

Washington state has recognized domestic partnerships since 2007. The law was expanded in 2009 to include everything but marriage.

Momentum for passage of the legislation began with Gregoire's endorsement in January, followed by majorities committing to the measure in both chambers, support from influential businesses headquartered in the state and polls showing a majority of voters support marriage equality.

The measure also had the support of a progressive coalition that included Washington United for Marriage, Equal Rights Washington, ACLU of Washington, Legal Voice, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, Service Employees International Union Washington State Council, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 and the Human Rights Campaign.

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