Washington finally became the seventh state to approve of same-sex marriage in the U.S. after state lawmakers Wednesday voted to pass the marriage equality bill by a 55-43 vote.

On Jan 4, Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire announced her support for same-sex couples saying, When someone asks me what marriage means, I don't think about the legal protections of a marriage license. I think about love, commitment, responsibility and partnership. Same-sex couples should not be denied the meaning of marriage. They have a right to be equal, reported The Miami Herald.

Gregoire was also quoted as saying by Reuters that she looked forward to signing the measure and putting into law an end to an era of discrimination even as opponents, and religious conservatives, vowed to seek its repeal at the polls in November.

The action has come just a day after a federal court in California declared the ban on gay marriages as unconstitutional, and called it a violation of the civil rights of the gay and lesbian couples.

The other six states where same sex-marriages are legal include Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York - as does the District of Columbia.

The bill was also endorsed by several major Washington-based companies including Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks.

A similar statute is also being pushed for in Maryland and New Jersey, while a referendum to legalize gay marriage in Maine has qualified for the November ballot there, reports Reuters.

But even though the bill is passed, gay couples can't get married just as yet. It will take 90 days after the Governor signs for the proposal to come to into effect.

But in case, opponents gather ample amount of signatures, the fight could be taken to the ballot box and the law would be put on hold pending the outcome of a November election.

If that does not happen, gay couples could start tying the knot from June. Domestic partnership laws have been existent in Washington State since 2007.

There has been a long-time debate on Washington State's stand on same-sex marriage and it has built-up and changed a lot since 1998 when lawmakers passed Washington's Defense of Marriage Act that banned gay marriage.

It was only in 2006 that the constitutionality of that law was finally upheld by the state Supreme Court. The domestic partnership law in 2007, and two years of expansion that culminated in 2009 with everything but marriage expansion that was upheld by voters, reports USA Today.

A poll conducted by the University of Washington in October revealed that about 43 percent of respondents support gay marriage. Five years ago, there were only 30 percent people in support of the same sex marriage. 22 percent people think it is ok to give identical rights to gay couples, without calling the unions marriage.

The report further says that when asked if the gay marriage law was to be challenged on the ballot, 55 percent said they would vote to uphold the law while 38 seems against it, and would even vote to reject the law.