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February 13, 2012

Wash. Gov. Gregorie signs gay marriage bill, but issue far from settled

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a law Monday legalizing same-sex marriage, making the state the seventh to grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. The state legislature had passed the bill last week, the same week a federal appeals court panel in California overturned that state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, potentially restoring a right gay and lesbian couples had won.

In both cases, however, the issue is far from settled.

Even before Gregoire signed Washington's bill Monday, gay marriage opponents were gearing up to collect enough signatures to let voters have their own veto power at the ballot in November. They have until June 6 to collect 120,000 signatures; if they don't, the law will take effect the next day.

In California, supporters of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that overturned a state supreme court ruling months earlier granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, are weighing whether to appeal to the full 9th Circuit or take their challenge directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal experts think it's likely that either way, the ruling will stand and California gay and lesbian couples will be able to marry. They also agree that the decision only applies to California, and won't lead to gay marriage nationwide.

Other states are moving in the direction of allowing it on their own. On Monday, the New Jersey Senate passed a gay marriage bill, and the Assembly is expected to follow. However, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has said he'll veto the bill, saying that voters should be the ones to decide the issue. While it's possible that legislators may override a Christie veto, the law could still end up before voters this fall.

Other states are going the other way: North Carolina, the host state of this year's Democratic National Convention, will vote in May on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Such measures have passed in every state that's brought the marriage issue to voters, although each time with smaller margins.

Meanwhile, gay rights activists are pushing the Democratic Party to endorse marriage equality in its platform at the Charlotte convention. President Barack Obama, the party's standard bearer, does not fully support gay marriage, but has said his views are "evolving."

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