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Congratulations to Washington
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/13/12
Last updated on: 02/13/12
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Washington Governor Chris Gregoire at the signing of the marriage equality bill.

On February 13, 2012, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, flanked by more than 40 lawmakers, signed the state's landmark marriage equality bill into law. Governor Gregoire celebrated the historic day with hundreds of same-sex couples who chanted "Gregoire! Gregoire!" as she walked into the reception room where she signed the bill that aligns Washington with six other states and the District of Columbia in bestowing equal rights under the law to gay and lesbian couples.

Governor Gregoire said today "is a proud day that historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights." She told stories of several people who had contacted her during the debate about same-sex marriage, including a teenage girl who had considered suicide because of the way she was treated because of her sexual orientation, but said the debate had changed her mind.

After years of ambivalence about same-sex marriage, Gregoire announced in January that she would not only sign marriage equality legislation, but would also use the powers of her office to assure its passage. In television interviews and press conferences in January, she recalled her personal journey in reaching that decision, which required her to go against the teachings of her Catholic faith.

Gesturing to her two daughters who attended the signing ceremony, Gregoire teared up when thanking the younger generation for speaking up about the issue.

Openly gay Representative Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), who sponsored the House version of the bill, expressed pride in Washington for taking a first step toward equal rights.

"With the signing of this bill, Washington is the first state to repeal a so-called Defense of Marriage Act and make marriage available to gay and lesbian families," Pedersen said. He thanked his partner and future husband Eric, who was at the signing with their four young children.

Openly gay Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle) said that no matter what happens in the months from now, "nothing will take this moment in history away from us." He thanked several lawmakers for their support, including Representative Laurie Jenkins. Her political skills "proved you need a lesbian in the house," Murray said.

Among the other lawmakers present at the signing was Republican Representative Maureen Walsh, whose impassioned speech in favor of same-sex marriage went viral on the Internet this week. Supporters cheered for her as she entered.

Washington same-sex couples will not be able to marry immediately. The new law does not become effective until June 7 at the earliest.

Opponents of same-sex marriage announced that they will attempt to qualify a referendum to repeal the law. If they are able to collect 120,577 valid signatures by June 6, 2012, the law will be suspended until the November election.

The defense of the legislation will be led by Washington United for Marriage, a coalition of organizations, congregations, unions, and business associations working together to secure civil marriage for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples.

Here is a video of the signing ceremony.

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