Governor Christine Gregoire signed gay marriage into law on Monday, making Washington state the seventh in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. Gregoire at the signing, said: "This is a very proud moment...I'm proud of who and what we are as a state."
AFP reports the law will take effect on June 7 unless opponents gather enough signatures to hold a referendum on overturning the measure.
Gregoire at the signing ceremony in the reception room of the Olympia state house, said: “We’re here today to make history in this great state." The governor added: “We did what was right, we did what was just, we did what was fair." In her address, she thanked her two daughters and young Washingtonians who "tell us that marriage equality is the civil rights issue of their time.”
Two of Washington state's leading proponents of gay marriage, state Representative Jamie Pedersen and state Senator Ed Murray, commended the state's legislature. Pedersen, according to Politico.com, said: "Years from now, our kids will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. My friends, welcome to the other side of the rainbow."
Opponents of gay marriage vow to fightReuters reports opponents of same-sex marriage have vowed to fight against the law taking effect. A campaign was launched on Monday to seek its repeal at the polls in November.
Anti-gay marriage protesters were seen in the Capitol Rotunda overlooking the reception hall, holding up signs and placards stating their opposition to gay marriage with slogans such as "one man, one woman."
Opponents of gay marriage say they will work to overturn the legislation by a ballot measure. Reuters reports they have two options, a referendum for repeal or an initiative defining marriage as exclusively heterosexual. If a repeal referendum qualifies for ballot in November, the gay marriage law will be suspended until the election result is certified in December.
A newly formed coalition of anti-gay marriage groups called Preserve Marriage Washington, has filed referendum papers with the Washington secretary of state's office to begin the process for referendum. They have until June to collect 120,577 voter signatures to qualify a repeal referendum. An initiative defining marriage as exclusively heterosexual, according to Reuters, will require twice as many signatures by July 6.
But gay rights advocates already see the signing of the bill into law in Washington as another major victory for gay rights in the U.S. Gay rights advocacy has won a string of key victories in recent times. Last week, a federal appeals court declared a voter-approved gay marriage ban in California unconstitutional, and New Jersey state Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill on Monday.
Gregoire: 'look into your hearts and ask yourselves, isn't it time?'
Governor Gregoire, in apparent anticipation of a repeal campaign, asked all Washingtonians "look into your hearts and ask yourselves, isn't it time?...We in this state stand proud for equality." Politico reports the governor, referring to other states that had legalized same-sex marriage before Washington, said: “Their experience proves to all of us that the sky will fall rhetoric is simply not true."
According to Reuters, the issue of same-sex marriage will feature prominently in the state's Republican presidential politics. The gay marriage bill was supported mostly by Democrats in the legislative bodies. Major companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks also supported the bill. Opposition to the bill is being led by Roman Catholic bishops and other religious conservative groups.
Joseph Backholm, head of the conservative Family Policy Institute of Washington, said: "Marriage is society's way of bringing men and women together so that children can be raised by, and cared for by, their mother and father. It is the most-important, child-focused institution of society, and we will fight to preserve it. Voters will have the opportunity to define marriage in our state."
The move to legalize gay marriage is gaining momentum across the U.S. Six states have already legalized gay marriage in the country. These are New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshsire and Iowa. Politco reports that on Monday, the New Jersey state Senate passed a bill, 24-16, recognizing gay marriage. The bill is expected to be passed at the state Assembly on Thursday, but Republican Governor Chris Christie, staunch Romney supporter, has said he would veto it. A referendum on same-sex marriage is also being pushed in Maine.
Los Angeles Times reports that legalization of gay marriage in Washington exempts churches, religious institutions and members of the clergy. It allows them to refrain from participating in same-sex marriages if it goes against their beliefs.
According to AFP, same-sex marriage remains highly controversial in the U.S. A group of 80 US mayors, last month, announced a campaign to win support for same-sex marriage across the country. The group includes New York's Michael Bloomberg, Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, Antonio Villaraigosa from Los Angeles and Annise Parker from Houston.