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Same-sex marriage bill passes Senate

OLYMPIA — The Senate passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in Washington on a 28-21 vote, sending legislation to the House where it is almost assured of passage.

Supporters say the legislation could be on Gov. Chris Gregoire’s desk by the middle of next week; Gregoire has said she will sign it.

After about an hour and 20 minutes of sometimes emotional debate, the Senate passed the bill with additional protections for religious organizations to refuse to perform ceremonies or solemnize marriages of same-sex couples. Other accepted amendments also underscored the rights of some religious-based organizations that handle adoptions or place children in foster care not to be protected from civil claims.

Supporters defeated, however, an amendment that would have required the bill to be placed on the November and receive voter approval.

Opponents are likely to gather the signatures necessary to do that, they acknowledged.

If a referendum is filed and the signatures are gathered, the law wouldn’t go into effect unless it passes in November and those results are certified by the state. That would mean the earliest same-sex couples could be married would be in December.

If opponents don’t gather enough signatures to place the bill on the ballot, it would become law in early June.

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