LOS ANGELES — Governor Christine Gregoire officially signed same-sex marriage into law on Monday, making Washington the seventh state to recognize gay and lesbian unions, AFP reported.
However, while gay rights activists and their allies heralded the move, same-sex couples in Washington will have to wait to wed until June 7, when the new law goes into effect, Slate reported.
Gregoire's signature comes on the same day that New Jersey's Senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, even as Republican Governor Chris Christie promised to veto it. The state's Democratic-controlled Senate voted 24 to 16 on Monday to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.
More from GlobalPost: NJ Senate passes gay marriage bill
"I'm proud our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal," Gregoire said at the signing ceremony in the state capital of Olympia, according to AFP. "I ask all Washingtonians to look into your hearts and ask yourselves, isn't it time?" Gregoire continued. "We in this state stand proud for equality."
More from GlobalPost: Washington state House of Representatives passes gay marriage bill
However, opponents of the legislation have vowed to have it repealed through a ballot measure in November, which could delay gay and lesbian marriages further, or stop them entirely, Reuters reported. The issue is also likely to figure prominently in Republican presidential politics across the country.
Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who is outspoken in his opposition to same-sex marriage, is making two stops in Washington on Monday to gather support for the state's Republican caucuses, which will take place on March 3, Reuters reported. He is meeting with Republican lawmakers in Olympia in the afternoon, and will give a speech in Tacoma on Monday night.
California recently overturned its repeal of gay marriage, which was ruled unconstitutional. Nationwide, voters have rejected gay marriage in all 31 referendums on the issue, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
Washington joins New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and The District of Columbia in recognizing gay marriage.
At least five other states are scheduled to vote on the issue in the coming year, Bloomberg reported. Lawmakers in Maryland and Illinois are weighing legalization, and North Carolina and Minnesota have proposed making same-sex unions illegal through voter initiatives. Maine is also slated to vote on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, according to Bloomberg.
The patchwork quilt of laws about marriage means that gay and lesbian Americans have different rights depending on geography, which frustrates some activists.
“We are one country, not 50 separate kingdoms, and we all deserve equal protection under the law,” Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, told Bloomberg in an e-mail. “Same-sex couples should not have to play ‘now you’re married, now you’re not’ depending on which state they are in.”