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Originally published Monday, January 30, 2012 at 6:59 PM

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House panel OKs bill to legalize gay marriage; Senate vote soon

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote, and the Senate is expected to vote on its companion bill within days.

The Associated Press

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OLYMPIA — A House committee on Monday advanced a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state, and the Senate is expected to vote on its companion bill within days.

The House Judiciary Committee approved its gay-marriage bill on a party-line vote, with seven Democrats voting for it, and six Republicans voting in opposition.

Three Republican amendments were rejected, including one that would have added private businesses and individuals, such as bakers and photographers, to the religious exemption in the measure that doesn't require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and doesn't subject them to penalties if they don't marry gay or lesbian couples.

Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, called the bill "an act of raw political power to modify the definition of marriage."

"There has been no compelling justification to abandon traditional marriage," he said.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have already promised a referendum battle at the ballot if the Legislature passes the bill and it's signed into law.

Sen. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who is sponsoring one of the bills, said Monday that he expects a floor vote on gay marriage in the Senate on Wednesday. A Senate committee voted to advance Murray's bill Friday.

Before last week, it wasn't certain the Senate would have the support to pass the measure, because of a handful of undecided Democrats. But last Monday, a previously undecided Democratic senator, Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island, said she would be the 25th and deciding vote in support of the measure, all but ensuring its passage.

The state House already had secured enough votes to pass the bill, and Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire publicly endorsed the proposal earlier this month.

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