The Washington House of Representatives today gave final passage to a bill extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. The vote came one week after the bill easily passed in the Senate. Now the legislation heads to the desk of Gov. Christine Gregoire, who has promised to sign it.
As in the Senate, Washington’s openly gay and lesbian lawmakers led the effort to pass the bill in the House. The openly gay chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, was a key figure in moving the legislation to the floor. Earlier this week Pedersen had to sit through a hearing on the measure that drew a number of anti-gay witnesses whose testimony veered into strange territory, according to this report.
Washington is now on track to become the 7th U.S. state (plus the District of Columbia) to allow gays and lesbians to marry, though the law’s earliest effective date, June 7, could be delayed if marriage equality opponents gather enough signatures to force the issue onto a statewide ballot.
In 2009, Washington state voters affirmed a bill that extended domestic partner rights and benefits to same-sex couples. Referendum 71, which asked voters to approve or reject the bill passed by the state legislature, was passed with 53% of the vote. But a new poll finds Washingtonians almost evenly divided on whether they would vote to approve the marriage equality bill passed today, with 47% saying they’d support the bill and 46% planning to vote to overturn it.