Gov. Gregoire signs Washington’s gay marriage into law

Washington governor Chris Gregoire, left, and congressman Jamie Pedersen celebrate the bill's passing last week. Elaine Thompson / AP

Today our neighbors to the north made gay marriage officially legal when Governor Christine Gregoire signed the landmark legislation into law amidst the cheers of gay couples and supporters making it the seventh state (as well as the District of Columbia) to allow same-sex marriage.

“My friends, welcome to the other side of the rainbow,” said state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, before Gregoire signed the bill.

“This is a very proud moment,” Gregoire said, “I’m proud our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal.”

However, changes won’t go into effect for 90 days meaning that opponents have until June 6th to gather enough signatures, 120,577, to put it on November’s ballot. If they do not marriages can begin June 7, but if they do they will be put off until the election. 

An anti-gay marriage initiative has also been filed. To qualify, 241,153 signatures must be submitted by July 6.

The Democratic governor signed the bill as Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who opposes gay marriage, was in town speaking with conservative voters. Santorum planned to meet with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol later Monday.

In October, a University of Washington poll found that an increasing number of people in the state support same-sex marriage. About 43 percent of respondents said they support gay marriage, up from 30 percent in the same poll five years earlier. Another 22 percent said they support giving identical rights to gay couples, without calling the unions “marriage.”

If a challenge to gay marriage law was on the ballot, 55 percent said they would vote to uphold the law. And 38 percent said they would vote to reject a gay marriage law.

The Seattle Times talked to one older lesbian couple who are particularly excited to see this go into effect:

…Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen, [are] a lesbian couple from Seattle, who spent the first half of their 35 years together hiding from others their true feelings for one another.

Seven years ago, as part of their coming-out journey, the women held a ceremony at Seattle First Baptist Church where, in the presence of 150 friends, each pledged to be the other’s partner for life.

In the ensuing years, as same-sex marriage was becoming legal elsewhere, the women thought about going to Canada to officially marry — but instead chose to wait. When they finally did marry, they said, they wanted it to be in Washington.

“We feel very strongly about that,” said Petersen, 84. “We love this state, and we love this city. And what has happened on our journey here is most wonderful.”

“We still pinch ourselves,” said Lighty, 76.

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