OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state lawmakers voted to approve gay marriage Wednesday, setting the stage for the state to become the seventh in the nation to allow same-sex couples to wed.
The action comes a day after a federal appeals court declared California's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, saying it was a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples.
The Washington House passed the bill on a 55-43 vote. Supporters in the public viewing galleries stood and cheered as many on the Democratic side of the House floor hugged after the vote.
The state Senate approved the bill last week. It now goes to Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law next week.
Gregoire issued a statement after the vote, saying it was "a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation."
The law would take effect 90 days after the legislative session ends next month, but opponents have promised to fight gay marriage with a ballot measure that would allow voters to overturn the legislative approval. If they gather enough signatures, the law would be put on hold pending the outcome of a November election.
Otherwise, gay couples could wed starting in June.
Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C.
Lawmakers in New Jersey are expected to vote on gay marriage next week.