Gov. Christine Gregoire

Gov. Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law in Washington state in a ceremony this afternoon. However, same-sex couples can’t begin marrying there yet pending a possibly ballot measure.

State Rep. Jamie Pedersen introduced his partner and future husband and their four children at the signing ceremony. He credited Gregoire with doing more to advance LGBT rights than anyone else in the country. Gregoire supported the state’s original domestic partnership law and anti-bullying legislation.

“This is a very proud moment,” Gregoire said before signing the bill. “I’m proud that our same-sex couples will not be treated as separate but equal. They will be equal.”

Opponents have two options. They can collect signatures to put the marriage-equality law on the ballot and attempt to repeal it. If the law goes on the ballot, marriage cannot start until after the November election and then only if the proposition fails.

Another option would be to put forth a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. That option would take half the number of signatures to get on the ballot. But the law would go into effect in June, same-sex couples could get married and if the constitutional amendment passes, courts would have to decide if those marriages would remain legal. In California, 18,000 marriages are still considered valid even though Prop 8 stopped the additional marriage licenses from being issued in the state.

If signatures are not collected to stop marriage equality, the law goes into effect in June. In a referendum on Washington’s domestic partnership laws, voters upheld the law with 53 percent of the vote.

“If asked, the voters in Washington will say yes to equality,” Gregoire said.

As she signed the bill, one heckler began shouting but was drowned out by the crowd.

Also today, the New Jersey Senate passed a marriage-equality bill by a vote of 24-16. In 2010, the bill failed by 14-20 in the Senate.

The bill moves to the Assembly. Gov. Chris Christie has said he will veto it. In the Senate, 27 votes would be needed to override a veto.

To indicate the importance of marriage equality to lawmakers, the legislation has been designated as Senate Bill 1 and Assembly Bill 1.

If Christie vetoes the bill, the Legislature will have until January 2014 to override it.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley testified for a marriage-equality bill in front of two committees in the House of Delegates on Friday.

“This bill balances equal protection of individual civil marriage rights with the important protection of religious freedom for all,” O’Malley testified with two Baptist ministers at his side.

Watch the signing ceremony: