SEATTLE (CN) – Calling it one of her “proudest moments” in office, Gov. Christine Gregoire on Monday signed legislation making gay marriage legal in Washington. Opponents immediately filed a referendum, seeking repeal.
Six other states and the District of Columbia grant marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Gay couples will not be able to marry until at least June 7.
If opponents of the law gather 120,577 valid voter signatures, same-sex marriage will be put on hold until the November general election.
The law contains an exemption allowing religious organizations to refuse to marry gay couples without facing penalties.
There is no residency requirement, but same-sex Washington couples who are registered as domestic partners will have to convert their partnership to marriage by June 30, 2014 or the state will automatically make the change.
Domestic partnerships will still be allowed for senior couples when one of the partners is 62 or older, as a way to keep certain Social Security or pension benefits.
“As governor for more than seven years, this is one of my proudest moments,” Gregoire said at the signing. “And most surely, today is a proud day in the history of the Legislature and the state of Washington. It is a day historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights. A day when we did what was right, we did what was just, and we did what was fair. We stood up for equality and we did it together – Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, young and old, and a variety of religious faiths. I’m proud of who and what we are in this state.”
The state House approved the bill by 55-43 vote and the Senate by 28-21.