The Washington state House of Representatives [official website] voted 53-43 Wednesday to approve a bill [HB 6239] to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. Washington currently grants expanded domestic partnership rights [JURIST report] rather than full marriage or civil union rights to same-sex couples. The Senate passed the bill [JURIST report] last week, and Governor Christine Gregoire [official website] is expected to sign it into law next week. Gregoire has been a major supporter of gay rights in her term as governor and originally proposed a marriage bill in the state Congress. In a statement, she praised the bill's passage:
This is truly a historic day in Washington state, and one where I couldn't be more proud. With today's vote, we tell the nation that Washington state will no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love. We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state. And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.Opponents of same-sex marriage have promised to challenge the imminent law with a referendum, similar to Proposition 8 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] in California. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] earlier this week that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. If a ballot initiative in Washington is not achieved, same-sex marriages could begin as early as June.
Washington is poised to become the eighth jurisdiction in the US to legalize same-sex marriage [US map]. In a similar situation, New Jersey is considering legalizing same-sex marriage soon, although it currently has a civil union system in place. In November, a lawsuit [JURIST report] was allowed to continue in New Jersey, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the state civil union law as a contravention of both the Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] and the New Jersey State Constitution. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports]. The case for same-sex marriage was recently made by JURIST contributor Kimberly Bennett in Judicial Activism and the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage [JURIST op-ed].