An emotional Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a historic measure to make Washington the seventh state to legalize gay marriage. "This is a very proud moment," Gregoire said as applauding gay couples and media from around the country looked on.
If opponents gather enough signatures to take it to the ballot, the law will be put on hold pending the outcome of a November election. They must turn in more than 120,000 signatures by June 6 to challenge the proposed law. An anti-gay marriage initiative has also been filed. To qualify, 241,153 signatures must be submitted by July 6.
Washington state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, and more than a dozen other states have provisions, ranging from domestic partnerships to gay marriage, supporting same-sex couples.
In October, a University of Washington poll found that an increasing number of people in the state support same-sex marriage. About 43 percent of respondents said they support gay marriage, up from 30 percent in the same poll five years earlier. Another 22 percent said they support giving identical rights to gay couples without calling the unions "marriage."
If a challenge to the gay marriage law was on the ballot, 55 percent said they would vote to uphold the law. And 38 percent said they would vote to reject it.