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Washington state passes gay marriage question

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Voters in Washington state have approved gay marriage, joining Maine and Maryland as the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Returns released since election night show Referendum 74 maintaining its lead. Opponents conceded the race Thursday, a day after supporters declared victory.

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The measure asked people to approve or reject a state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier this year. That law was signed by Governor Chris Gregoire but was on hold pending the election’s outcome.

Washington is one of four states where voters were asked about the issue this election cycle. Maryland and Maine residents approved gay marriage Tuesday night, while Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont — and the District of Columbia already allow gay marriage. But Maryland, Maine, and Washington are the first to enact it by public vote. The other states’ laws were enacted either by lawmakers or court rulings.

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