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Washington State Governor Signs Gay Marriage Into Law

Gay and lesbian couples in Washington state can start picking up their wedding certificates and licenses tomorrow. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Wednesday a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in the state.

Last month, voters in Washington, Maine and Maryland voted to approve same-sex marriage, making them the first states where gay marriage has passed through popular vote.

"This is a very important and historic day in the great state of Washington," Gregoire said before signing the measure. "For many years now, we've said one more step, one more step. And this is our last step for marriage equality in the state of Washington."

November's ballot measure had asked residents to vote on a state law legalizing gay marriage that passed earlier this year. Nearly 54 percent of voters backed the measure known as Referendum 74. Religious organizations are not required by the new law to marry gay or lesbian couples.

The Seattle Times is reporting on county offices across the state preparing to issue licenses, and on the couples waiting to receive them.

Here's more from The Associated Press:

"Washington state has had a domestic partnership law in place since 2007. The initial law granted couples about two dozen rights, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights when there is no will. It was expanded a year later, and then again in 2009, when lawmakers completed the package with the so-called "everything but marriage" law that was ultimately upheld by voters later that year."

Gay marriage is already legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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