*Gay marriage has been approved in Washington state. The measure now heads to the State House, which is expected to approve it.
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, reports BCNN1.
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.
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, the bill’s sponsor, said he knew same-sex marriage “is as contentious any issue that this body has considered in its history.”
Lawmakers who vote against gay marriage “are not, nor should they be accused of bigotry” he said.
“Those of us who support this legislation are not, and we should not be accused of, undermining family life or religious freedom,” said Murray, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who has spearheaded past gay rights and domestic partnership laws in the state. “Marriage is how society says you are a family.”
Nearly a dozen amendments were introduced, including several that passed that strengthen legal protections for religious groups and organizations.
Sen. Dan Swecker argued that the proposed law alters the definition of marriage and “will lead to the silencing of those who believe in traditional marriage.”
Even though a referendum clause amendment was rejected, opponents have already promised to file a challenge, which 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.
Read the full story at BCNN1.