The Washington state Senate has passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, bringing the state a step closer to becoming the seventh to allow lesbian and gay couples to wed.
The packed public galleries burst into applause as the Senate passed the measure on a 28-21 vote Wednesday night after nearly an hour and a half of debate. Four Republicans crossed party lines and voted with majority Democrats for the measure. Three Democrats voted against it.
The measure now heads to the House, which is expected to approve it and could take action on it as early as next week. Gov. Chris Gregoire supports the measure and has said she will sign it into law, though opponents have promised to challenge it at the ballot with a referendum.
Nearly a dozen amendments were debated, including several that passed that strengthen legal protections for religious groups and organizations. A handful were rejected, including one that would exempt photographers, cake decorators and other business owners who object to gay marriage from the law, and another that called for a referendum clause to be added to the bill.
Even though the referendum clause amendment was rejected, opponents have already promised to file a challenge to the legislation. But that can’t be done until after it is passed by the full Legislature and signed into law by Gregoire. Opponents then must turn in 120,577 signatures by June 6. (AP)