Washington Steps Closer to Legalizing Gay Marriage
State Senate votes to legalize same-sex marriage
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2012 7:03 AM CST
Kara Haney and her partner Kate Wertin embrace in the Lobby Bar in Seattle as the Washington State Senate passes a bill that would legalize gay marriage in Washington State on Feb. 1, 2012.   (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)
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(Newser) – Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire vowed last month to get gay marriage legalized in her state, and last night the first step was taken. The state Senate voted 28 to 21 to legalize same-sex marriage, and the House of Representatives will likely give its approval within a week. That could make Washington the seventh state in the US where gay marriage is legal; it is also legal in the District of Columbia. Opponents, however, have until June to collect enough voter signatures to force a November referendum on the issue, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

Last night's debate over the legislation was, at times, emotional. The chief sponsor, a gay man and practicing Catholic, said he would invite his colleagues to his wedding regardless of how they voted. Two Republicans who were undecided going into the vote ended up voting yes, along with two other Republicans and 24 Democrats. The other 18 Republicans, along with three Democrats, voted no. An opinion poll from last fall found that 55% of Washington residents said they would vote in favor of same-sex marriage.