Washington Governor Chris Gregoire's announcement that she will introduce a gay marriage bill is being lauded by gay rights groups.

On Wednesday, Gregoire, who is in the final year of her second term, held a press event surrounded by marriage equality advocates at which she said it was time for Washington to legalize gay marriage.

“As a wife, a mother, a student of the law and a lifelong Washingtonian committed to equality and justice, today, I'm announcing my support for a law that gives same-sex couples in our state the right to receive a marriage license in Washington – the same right given heterosexual couples. It is time, it is the right thing to do, and I will introduce a bill to do it,” Gregoire said at the news conference held in the state capital of Olympia.

“Our gay and lesbian families face the same hurdles as heterosexual families … 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,” she added.

Gregoire becomes the second governor this year to announce support for such a bill. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley vowed last year that he would back this year's effort in his state. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is credited with making New York the sixth state to legalize gay marriage.

“2012 is already building on the tremendous progress toward equality in 2011,” Stuart Gaffney, media director for Marriage Equality USA, said in a statement. “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.”

Washington currently recognizes gay and lesbian couples with domestic partnerships. Gregoire signed a series of bills into law that expanded such unions to include most of the protections of marriage.

A poll released in October found that 55 percent of Washingtonians would vote against a ballot initiative that attempted to repeal a gay marriage law.