Washington state on its way to becoming the 7th state to recognize gay, lesbian marriages
After a rigorous debate and a 28-21 vote, on Wednesday night, the Washington state Senate approved a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
In addition to the measure, more than 10 amendments were introduced.
Several amendments, including one that strengthened legal protections for religious groups and organizations, passed. An amendment that mandated a referendum clause be added to the bill, failed, however.
Under the measure that passed Wednesday, the nearly 10,000 couples currently registered in domestic partnerships would have to dissolve their relationship or get married. Domestic partnerships that aren’t dissolved before June 30, 2014, would automatically become marriages under the proposed law.
Domestic partnerships would stay intact for couples in which one partner is a senior citizen, so that gay seniors don’t have to worry about losing their pensions or other benefits such as Social Security.
The bill’s next stop is the Washington state House of Representatives. The House is expected to approve the bill.
The state’s governor, Chris Gregoire has said that she supports the bill and would sign it into law.
If the bill is signed into law, opponents have promised to challenge it at the ballot with a referendum. They will have to submit more than 120,577 signatures of citizens in opposition to the bill by June 6.
If opponents aren’t able to collect enough signatures, homosexual would be able to start getting married in June.
If signed into law, Washington would become the seventh state to recognize same sex marriages.
Those who support gay marriage are working to pass similar legislation in New Jersey and Maryland.
According to the Public Religion Research Institute, more than 50 percent of Protestants and 56 percent of Catholics support the right of same-sex couples to wed.