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Washington State headed toward gay marriage: a sign of shifting attitudes

Lawmakers voted to make Washington the seventh state to allow gay marriage. Opponents vow to force the measure onto the November ballot, but obtaining a voter veto of the new law will be an uphill battle.

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If the question is put to voters in the fall, according to the University of Washington poll, 38 percent say they’d vote to overturn the new legislation, but 53 percent would uphold it.

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Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

Lawmakers in New Jersey are expected to vote on gay marriage next week (although it faces a threatened veto by Republican Gov. Chris Christie), and Maine could see a gay marriage proposal on the November ballot. In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) called the news from Washington State “yet another step forward for equal protection under the law for all Americans.”

“It is time for Maryland to do the same,” he said.

At the same time, proposed amendments to ban gay marriage will be on the ballots in North Carolina in May and in Minnesota in November.

Washington State’s new law doesn’t require churches and other religious institutions to perform same-sex marriages, and they may refuse to allow their facilities to be used for such weddings. Republicans pushed for a one-month residency requirement as well as exemptions for wedding-related businesses (such as photographers and cake bakers) whose owners might object on moral or religious grounds, but those efforts failed.

Washington Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D), who is gay and in a long-term relationship, spoke of the connection between the federal court ruling in California and Washington State’s new law.

"The court addressed the question of why marriage matters directly," he said, noting that the California ruling called marriage “the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults."

"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," he said. "Marriage is the word that we use in our society to convey that idea."

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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