Washington State Governor Signs Same Sex Marriage into Law

On November 6, Washington State voters chose to join a growing number of states to legalize same sex marriage. One month later, Governor Chris Gregoire has signed the measure into law this week to allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain legally-binding marriage licenses. 

Reports say same sex couples lined up outside the county clerk's office today awaiting their turn to uphold their now-legal marriage rights, many celebrating with champaign and all in good spirits. Under state law, there is a three-day waiting period from the time a couple obtains a license to when the nuptials can take place, so the first weddings will begin Sunday. The law does not require churches or religious entities to perform the ceremonies, these establishments are still within the law to refuse to marry a gay couple. 

If a couple has been married in another state but is now living in Washington, they will not be required to perform another ceremony to be considered married in the state; the law will recognize their union.

A bill to legalize same sex marriage was originally passed and signed into law in February of this year, but a referendum from opponents put a temporary stop on the law, sending the measure to the November ballot to be ushered in by a 54 percent vote.  

While many states are legalizing same sex matrimony—including Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, and the District of Columbia—federal law still does not legally recognize same sex partnerships. The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (or DOMA), although deemed unconstitutional by several federal courts, allows any state to prohibit same sex marriage and holds that federal law does not recognize gay matrimony. Ultimately, the decision to make gay marriage legal is in the hands of individual states; although, with federal courts challenging DOMA, this may not be the case for long. 

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