Elaine Thompson / AP
Wash. Gov. Christine Gregoire, seated, raises her arms as legislators and supporters cheer behind her after she signed into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, in Olympia, Wash.
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a bill that legalizes gay marriage in Washington state, making it the nation's seventh to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.
It's a historic moment, but same-sex couples can't walk down the aisle just yet.
The law takes effect June 7, but opponents are already mounting challenges on multiple fronts.
Opponents planned to file a challenge Monday that could put the law on hold pending the outcome of a November vote.
Separately, an initiative was filed at the beginning of the session that opponents of gay marriage say could lead to the new law being overturned.
Gregoire signed the bill Monday morning. It passed the House on Wednesday, a week after Senate approval.
"We are thrilled," said Lisa M. Stone, executive director of Legal Voice, a nonprofit that advocates for gay and lesbian rights. "After amazing support from both the Senate and the House earlier this month, signing the marriage equality bill late this morning was the next step toward providing equal treatment for all loving and committed families."
The group is girding for further battle, however, anticipating that opponents to same sex marriage will launch a petition to get the issue on the November ballot.
In fact, opponents had that effort under way in anticipation of Gregoire's signing Monday.
"We ARE going to exercise our right to referendum and reject this law!" said the Family Policy Institute of Washington on its Web site, in an urgent appeal launched Sunday.
"Don’t forget to continue to pray that the citizens of Washington State will be fearless in their support and defense of traditional marriage between one man and one woman. Send out requests across the state, nation and world for other faithful to join us in prayer to move hearts here in Washington to unify, organize a successful referendum campaign and to vote for traditional marriage."
The Seattle Times article on the bill being signed into law elicited mostly positive reaction in its comments section.
"Hooray!" wrote Sounder_Beav. "This has no business going to a state-wide referendum. However, if it does, I'm confident a strong majority of WA voters will uphold and confirm equal rights for same sex marriage."
"Glad this is finally over and we’ve joined the 21st Century at last," wrote Alphonso Arrivaderci.
But there were exceptions.
"So sad," wrote idcoug from Boise, without elaborating.
And then there was a contingent impatient with the issue.
"Good. Can we move on now?" commented 2times.
"Let’s focus 100 percent on balancing and passing the state budget now," urged Taxmaad.
In New Jersey on Monday, the state Senate passed a bill that would allow nuptials for same-sex couples. Gov. Chris Christie has said he will veto such legislation.
The Senate's vote sends the bill to the Assembly, which is expected to pass it Thursday.
"It means the world isn't changing, it means the world has already changed," said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, the state's largest gay rights organization. "So wake up and smell the equality."
Len Deo, president of New Jersey Family Policy Council, which opposes gay marriage, called the vote "an exercise in futility."
The governor has said he does not believe marriage laws should be changed, but he does support New Jersey's civil union law, which grants gay couples the legal protections of marriage.
Christie said he wants to put a change in the definition of marriage to a public vote.
But gay rights groups oppose a referendum. They see gay marriage as a civil rights matter and argue that it should not be up to the masses to protect the rights of a minority group.
Five years ago, New Jersey's state Supreme Court ruled that gay couples should have the same rights as married heterosexual couples. In response, the Legislature created civil unions.
Gay rights advocates say that because the civil union designation is hard to understand and still treats committed gays differently from married couples, the courts should eliminate civil unions and recognize gay marriage. A lawsuit seeking to do that is in the state court system.
NewsNation's Tamron Hall reports on the next step in the process to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
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