Wash. gov to break silence on gay marriage effort

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) Gov. Chris Gregoire will break her silence on an effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.

Gregoire has invited sponsors of the soon-to-be introduced bill to Olympia for a Wednesday news conference on the issue.

Gregoire has long supported the state's domestic partnership laws but has not yet given a firm signal on whether she supports same-sex marriage.

Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren refused to provide further details Tuesday after saying the governor will be addressing marriage equality.

Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Monday for the start of a 60-day legislative session, and Democratic Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle says he expects a bill to legalize same-sex marriage to be introduced sometime next week.

Murray, a gay lawmaker who has spearheaded past gay rights and domestic partnership laws in the state, said the underlying domestic partnership law has helped lay the groundwork for full marriage.

If Gregoire publicly supports the measure on Wednesday, "it would certainly help us move the issue of marriage equality forward this session," he said.

In November, a coalition called Washington United for Marriage announced it would lobby the Legislature to approve a gay marriage this year.

In 2009 the Legislature passed, and voters later upheld, a bill that greatly expanded the rights of same-sex domestic partners. That measure was known as the "everything but marriage" bill. Nearly 19,000 people in Washington state are registered as domestic partners.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.