The Governor of the state of Washington, has given her support to legislation which would introduce marriage equality for gay couples in the state.

That legislation would make Washington the seventh US state to have introduced marriage equality, and is set to be tabled for discussion at the state legislature’s new session.

Christine Gregoire told a news conference in the state capital of Olympia: “It is time in Washington state for marriage equality. It’s the right thing to do.”

Reuters reports that Gregoire said: “Our gay and lesbian families face the same hurdles as heterosexual families: making ends meet, choosing what school to send their kids to, finding someone to grow old with, standing in front of friends and family and making a lifetime commitment.

“For all couples, a state marriage license is very important. It gives them the right to enter into a marriage contract in which their legal interests, and those of their children if any, are protected by well-established civil law.”

Stuart Gaffney of Marriage Equality USA said 2012 was “already building on the tremendous progress towards equality in 2011″.

Welcoming the announcement, he said: “Today’s historic announcement from Governor Gregoire shows the momentum from marriage equality in New York and victories around the country is spreading rapidly from coast to coast.

“With every passing year, we see support for equal marriage rights growing rapidly. A recent poll showed 55% of Washingtonians would vote against a ballot initiative that attempted to repeal a marriage equality bill.”

In 2009, the state of Washington introduced an “everything-but-marriage” law for its gay citizens in partnerships, supported by a 53% to 47% vote in a public referendum.

That referendum was reported to be the first time the people of a state had voted to expand the rights of citizens in gay relationships.

It gave gays in domestic partnerships the right to use sick leave to care for a partner and rights related to adoption, child custody and child support, as well as new inheritance rights.

In April 2011, Governor Gregoire, a Democrat, signed into law a bill which meant legal out-of-state same-sex marriages now carry the force as domestic partnerships in Washington.

The National Organization for Marriage has confirmed it will campaign against the legislation.

A Republican State Senator in Washington, Dan Swecker, told the Bellingham Herald: “It’s too bad we’d try to deal with this issue, that tends to be very divisive, in a year when we have these other major financial issues facing us”.

Currently, six of the 50 states, and Washington DC, perform gay marriages, and the Suquamish Indian tribe, which is located in Washington state, recognises gay marriage.