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Washington Senate approves bill to legalize gay marriage

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, setting the stage for the state to become the seventh to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.

The measure now heads to the House, which is expected to approve it. Gov. Chris Gregoire supports the measure and has said she will sign it into law, though opponents have promised to challenge it at the ballot with a referendum.

The measure was passed on a 28-21 vote. Four Republicans crossed party lines and voted with majority Democrats for the measure. Three Democrats voted against it.

Any challenge to the bill can't be filed until after it is passed by the full Legislature and signed into law by Gregoire. Opponents then must turn in 120,577 signatures by June 6.

If opponents aren't able to collect enough signatures, gay and lesbian couples would be able to be wed starting in June. 

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