Gov. Chris Gregoire handed gay rights advocates a major victory Monday, signing into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state, making it the seventh in the nation to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Gregoire signed the bill surrounded by gay rights supporters. “I’m proud our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal,” she said.

It’s a historic moment for the state, but same-sex couples can’t walk down the aisle just yet.

The law takes effect June 7, but opponents on multiple fronts already are preparing to fight.

Opponents filed Referendum 73 Monday afternoon. If they collect the more than 120,577 valid voter signatures by June 6, the law will be put on hold pending the outcome of a November vote. Separately, an initiative was filed at the beginning of the legislative session that opponents of gay marriage say could also lead to the new law being overturned.

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