Wash. governor vows to legalize gay marriage

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday she wants Washington to become the seventh state in the nation to make gay marriage legal.

She said at a news conference she'll introduce legislation that, if passed, would allow same-sex marriage in Washington state. The Democrat had previously supported efforts to expand domestic partner rights for gay couples, but had not previously come out in favor of full marriage rights.

"It's time, it's the right thing to do, and I will introduce a bill to do it," Gregoire said. "I say that as a wife, a mother, a student of the law, and above all as a Washingtonian with a lifelong commitment to equality and freedom. Some say domestic partnerships are the same as marriage. That's a version of the discriminatory `separate but equal' argument."

In November, a coalition called Washington United for Marriage announced it would lobby the Legislature to approve a gay marriage this year. In 2009 the Legislature passed, and voters later upheld, a bill that greatly expanded the rights of same-sex domestic partners. That measure was known as the "everything but marriage" bill. Nearly 19,000 people in Washington state are registered as domestic partners.

Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday for the start of a 60-day legislative session.

Democratic Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, a gay lawmaker who has spearheaded past gay rights and domestic partnership laws in the state, said the underlying domestic partnership law has helped lay the groundwork for full marriage.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.

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