Australian marriage equality advocates have hailed a key vote in favour of reform in the US state of Washington.

Washington is set to become the eighth location in the US to allow same-sex marriages after the state Senate today passed a marriage equality bill that is expected to easily pass the House and has the support of the state’s governor, Christine Gregoire.

Yesterday, a House Judiciary Committee advanced a marriage equality bill while rejecting three Republican amendments, including one that would have added private businesses and individuals, such as bakers and photographers, to religious exemptions that don’t require religious organisations or churches to perform marriages, and doesn’t subject them to penalties if they don’t marry gay or lesbian couples.

Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said the Washington Senate vote sends a message to Australian politicians that there is no substitute for full equality.

“Since 2009, Washington state has had a domestic partnership scheme which has not given same-sex couples full equality and which legislators now see was a half-measure,” he said.

“This sends a clear message to Australian legislators [that] deeming same-sex couples as de facto partners or civil partners is not a substitute for the full legal equality that can only come with equality in marriage.”

Greenwich’s comments come just days after it was revealed that federal MPs Warren Entsch and Joel Fitzgibbon plan to co-sponsor a civil union bill in federal Parliament.

In a recent statement supporting marriage equality, Governor Gregorie, a committed Catholic, said domestic partnerships were not the same as marriage.

“That’s a version of the discriminatory separate-but-equal argument of the past,” she said.

“For years that argument was used to keep African Americans separate. Laws that keep some Americans in a separate status are inherently unjust.

“When someone asks me what marriage means I don’t think of the legal protections of a marriage license. Instead I think about love, I think about commitment, I think about responsibility, I think about partnership. Same-sex couples should not be denied that meaning of marriage.”

Greenwich also welcomed the support for reform from key conservative Republican senators and said this will send a message to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and the Coalition.

“The message for the Coalition out of Washington State is that marriage equality is an issue that is being embraced by conservative politicians throughout the world, from Washington Republicans to UK Prime Minister David Cameron,” he said.

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