OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Chris Gregoire handed gay rights advocates a major victory Monday, signing into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state, making it the seventh in the nation to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Gregoire signed the bill surrounded by gay rights supporters. “I’m proud our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal,” she said.

The law takes effect June 7, but opponents on multiple fronts already are preparing to fight.

Opponents filed Referendum 73 Monday afternoon. If they collect more than 120,577 valid voter signatures by June 6, the law will be put on hold pending the outcome of a November vote. Separately, an initiative was filed at the beginning of the legislative session that opponents of gay marriage say could also lead to the new law being overturned.

Gay marriage supporters said that while they are ready for a campaign battle, they are allowing themselves to celebrate first. “You have to relish this moment,” said 31-year-old Bret Tiderman of Seattle.

The state reception room at the Capitol was packed with hundreds of gay rights supporters and at least 40 lawmakers from the House and Senate.

Sen. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who is gay and has sponsored gay rights legislation for years, told the cheering crowd: “My friends, welcome to the other side of the rainbow. No matter what the future holds, nothing will take this moment in history away from us.”

As the Democratic governor signed the legislation, a man shouted, “Do not betray Christ!” However, his voice was overwhelmed by gay-marriage supporters who cheered and spoke loudly during his outburst.

Bob Struble, 68, of Bremerton, was removed from the room and said he was given a warning by security. He said he believes the state will halt gay marriage in a public vote. “We’ll be doing everything we can to overturn this unfortunate law,” he said.

Gregoire’s signature comes nearly a week after a federal appeals court declared California’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

 


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