Washington state Senate approves gay marriage
The margin was 28 to 21 -- three more votes than required. The bill now goes to the state House, where it is expected to pass.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she will sign it into law, the Associated Press reported. That would make Washington the seventh state to approve gay marriage.
"The citizens of Washington state have come to understand that lesbian and gay families are their neighbors and their friends," said Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, the bill's primary sponsor. "Marriage is how society says you are a family, the way the community knows a couple loves each other."
A conservative Democrat, Sen. Brian Hatfield, told the AP in a statement that he'd agonized over the issue.
“This is a measure that has emotionally torn at me as I have wrestled with my choice,” he said, noting that he had spent months in thought and prayer. He decided that although private citizens can oppose gay marriage, he as a legislator cannot because it would be discrimination.
However, Hatfield offered an amendment to put gay marriage to a public referendum. "Let's trust the people," the Seattle Times quoted him as saying. "If you support his bill ... let the voters have the final say."
An opponent, Republican Sen. Mike Padden, said, "If ever there was an issue that needs to be referred to the people, this is it."
The amendment failed, 26 to 23.
The Senate did approve a series of amendments intended to clarify religious exemptions to the legislation.
Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.
-- Connie Stewart
Photo: Rep. Laurie Jinkins, right, with constituent Marcy Kulland, waves from one Senate gallery across to the other Wednesday night before the state Senate passed legislation that would legalize gay marriage in Washington. The bill now goes to the House. The governor has said she will sign it. Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press