Washington Steps Closer to Legalizing Gay Marriage

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The Washington state Senate passed legislation Wednesday to legalize gay marriage, setting the stage for the state to become the seventh in the nation to allow homosexual couples to marry.

The vote triggered a wave of emotions from both sides of the issue.

"It's a long time coming that we can do something as powerful as this," said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, who supported the legislation. "And I do not believe there is any more powerful decision I will make."

"It passed! It passed! It passed! 28 to 21. I feel like a human being for the first time in my life and I'm a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army," said Hans Aschenbach, a gay rights supporter from Bellevue.

Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, said the proposed law alters the definition of marriage and "will lead to the silencing of those who believe in traditional marriage."

"I'm disappointed," he said, following Wednesday's vote. "But I did expect it to be what it was."

The bill is expected to eventually make it to the governors' desk and be signed into law.

Nevertheless, traditional marriage supporters aren't giving up, promising to get the measure put on the ballot and let the voters decide.

"We will not take this mess anymore," Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church, declared.

"If it does pass, then we're going to put up a referendum, and I think that then we're going to find out where people in this state really stand," he said.

The law could be in trouble if it makes the ballot. Thirty-one states have put the issue up for a vote, and in each case, voters chose to support traditional marriage.

"God bless marriage between one man and one woman," one traditional marriage supporter said.

Meanwhile, a similar battle is playing out in Maryland. This week hundreds gathered to protest a bill there to legalize gay marriage.

"Marriage is what's going to hold… families together," said Maryland resident Beth Alste, a traditional marriage supporter. "Without marriage you have no families and you have no society then. It will just crumble."

Maryland's Democratic governor is urging lawmakers to pass the bill. Religious and family groups promise to keep fighting for traditional marriage.

"Marriage is between one man and one woman and this is something that comes from on high," Deacon Al Turner, with the Archdiocese of Washington, said.

Lawmakers in New Jersey are also debating the marriage issue. But unlike his Maryland counterpart, Gov. Chris Christie promises to veto the measure.

Many Republicans are criticizing Democratic lawmakers in these states for making gay marriage a legislative priority, saying the focus needs to be on job creation and economy.

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