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Washington state House of Representatives passes gay marriage bill

Washington is the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Same-sex couple Frank Capley-Alfano (L) and Joe Capley-Alfano kiss outside of San Francisco City Hall. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the voter-approved Proposition 8 measure violates the civil rights of gay men and lesbians on Tuesday, as Washington became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage on Wednesday. (Justin Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images)

Washington lawmakers have legalized same-sex marriage, making it the seventh state to allow gay couples to marry, the Associated Press reported

The state's House of Representatives passed the bill on a 55-43 vote, and it is expected to be signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire by next week. 

Gov. Gregoire, a Democrat in her final year in office, set the stage for the measure's swift passage when she announced in January that she would support the legislation, Reuters reported

Once the Washington state bill reaches Gregoire's desk, she has five days, not including Sunday, to sign it into law. According to that timetable, some have speculated the legislation will be enacted next Tuesday, Valentine's Day, according to Reuters. 

However, the measure will not take effect before June 7, three months after the conclusion of the legislative session.

More from GlobalPost: Gay marriage bill clears Washington state Senate; heads to the House

The law comes a day after a federal appeals court declared California's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, overturning Proposition 8 and calling it a violation of the civil rights of gay couples, the AP reported. 

Democratic Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a gay lawmaker from Seattle, referenced Tuesday's ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals during his remarks on Washington's House floor.

"The court addressed the question of why marriage matters directly," he said, and read a section from the ruling that stated "marriage is 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."

However, opponents of the legislation are readying themselves to contest the measure at the ballot boxes, in much the same way that same-sex marriage was initially overturned in California and Maine.

More from GlobalPost: Proposition 8: 5 surprising facts

The National Organization for Marriage, a D.C.-based organization that opposes same-sex marriage, issued a statement last week promising to work with groups in Washington to fight the new law. Opponents to the bill must turn in 120,577 signatures by June 6 in order to get in on the ballot.

Democratic Senator Ed Murray, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who has led the movement for gay civil rights in the state, said he believes the public will uphold same-sex marriage.

"It will be a tough battle, it will probably be an ugly battle, but I think we'll win," he said, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported

Legal experts said that California's ruling could ease the way for a successful court challenge in Washington state if voters there do overturn the gay marriage bill.

Washington state has had domestic partnership laws since 2007, the AP reported. Though serveral states allow certain rights for gay and lesbian couples, same-sex marriage is only 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, and Maine could see a gay marriage proposal on the November ballot, the AP reported. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120208/washington-passes-gay-marriage