Washington is poised to become the seventh state in the U.S. to allow gay marriage after a bill was approved by the state legislature on Wednesday (8 February).
The Washington House passed the bill on a 55-43 vote. The state Senate had already approved the measure last week and Gov. Chris Gregoire has vowed to sign it into law.
The vote came a day after the 9th District U.S. Court of Appeals found that California's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional and on the same day that a marriage equality bill was introduced in Illinois.
'I would like for our four children to grow up understanding that their daddy and their poppa have made that kind of a lifelong commitment to each other,' said Democratic Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a gay lawmaker from Seattle. 'Marriage is the word that we use in our society to convey that idea.'
Although heavily-favored by the Democratic majority, the vote was not divided strictly down party lines.
'Why in the world would we not allow those equal rights to those individuals who are truly committed to each other in life?' Republican Rep. Maureen Walsh asked during remarks on the house floor.
Walsh added that her daughter is a lesbian and 'by God, I want to throw a wedding for that kid.'
But Republican Rep. Jay Rodne expressed a different view: 'This bill is really an exercise of raw political power. It contravenes human nature and it will hurt families and children.'
Gregoire, who was present for Wednesday's House proceedings, had urged senators and representatives to take the vote and 'do the right thing' rather than out the matter to a vote of the people.
A public vote is what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vowed as the legislature in his state is poised to pass a marriage equality bill next week. Legislation is also being considered in the state of Maryland.
Same-sex marriages are already legal in New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington, D.C.