Gay marriage foes vow to take Washington measure to voters
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to announce Thursday when she will sign a measure to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Meantime, foes of the concept were making plans to try to overturn it at the ballot box.
The state House passed the bill Wednesday, 55 to 43, and the state Senate passed it last week, 28 to 21.
Gregoire, who has made no secret of her support for the legislation, is expected to sign it sometime next week. She watched the House vote from the wings with the bill's sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, the Associated Press reported.
In a statement afterward, the governor called the vote "a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation."
Two Republicans crossed party lines to support the bill.
One of them, Rep. Maureen Walsh, said during debate: "Someone made the comment that this is not about equality. Well, yes it is about equality.
"My daughter came out of the closet a couple of years ago. I thought I would agonize about that," the Seattle Times quoted Walsh as saying. "But nothing is different. She's still a fabulous human being and she's met a person that she loves very much and someday, by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid. I hope that's what I can do."
Three Democrats voted against the legislation, which will make the state the seventh to permit same-sex marriage. It is already legal in six states -- New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont -- and the District of Columbia.
But even before the Legislature had voted, opponents were making plans to overturn the measure at the ballot box. They have until June 6 to submit at least 120,577 signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot. If they succeed, the law would not take effect pending results of the vote. A simple majority would decide whether to retain the law, the Seattle Times reported.
If foes fail to gather enough signatures, same-sex couples could begin to wed in June.
Stephen Pidgeon, a lawyer from Everett, Wash., is one of the leaders of the opposition. He reportedly is planning a parallel effort to define marriage as between a man and a woman, which would need to gather about double the number of signatures -- 241,153 -- by July 6 to put it on the ballot. The other potential ballot measure would repeal a law, which requires fewer signatures.
"We have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm about the initiative," Pidgeon told Reuters last week. "People are gearing up, and we're going to move ahead strongly, and I believe quickly. We already have hundreds of churches that have already pledged thousands of signatures."
The National Organization for Marriage was also expected to join the effort to overturn the measure. On its website Wednesday night, the group posted a news alert:
"BREAKING NEWS: WA State House Passes SSM 55-43. Get Ready for a Referendum"
-- Ricardo Lopez and Connie Stewart
Photo: Gov. Chris Gregoire, left, embraces state Rep. Jamie Pedersen after the House voted to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state Wednesday. Gregoire is expected to sign the bill next week. Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press