VANCOUVER, Wash. (CN) – Washington will become the ninth state to allow gay marriage after opponents conceded defeat Thursday.
The state is the third, after Maine and Maryland, to approve gay marriage through popular vote.
With thousands of votes for Referendum 74 to still be counted, same-sex marriage supporters celebrated victory on Wednesday. Proponents projected that voters in the Seattle area would determine the outcome.
On Thursday afternoon, opponents of the referendum conceded defeat.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a gay marriage bill in February, but opponents submitted enough signatures to put the issue to a referendum in the general election.
The law will allow same-sex couples to marry, and domestic partnerships will be converted to marriages after 2014.
Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, called it a “historic day.”
“We have always understood that there are good people on the other side of this issue,” Silk said. “Yet, we remain confident that once people see how much marriage matters to families, they will realize that the love and commitment that marriage embodies only strengthens families, neighborhoods and communities.”
Silk thanked voters, campaign workers, and the 20,000 people who donated to the cause.
The chairman of Preserve Marriage Washington, which fought the law, blamed the passage of the referendum on “Washington’s political establishment and news media.”
Joseph Backholm said The Seattle Times took “the unprecedented step of not just endorsing the referendum, but of actively campaigning for its approval.”
The newspaper’s editorial board endorsed the referendum, and offered discounted political ads for the campaign to legalize gay marriage.
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