The Washington State House on Wednesday approved a gay marriage bill and sent it to Governor Chris Gregoire for her approval.

House members approved the measure with a 55 to 43 vote after a two hour debate. The move comes a day after a federal court declared California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, in violation of the United States Constitution, and one week after the Washington Senate passed the measure with a wider margin than expected.

Gregoire, who recently began speaking out in favor of marriage equality, has five days, not counting Sunday, to sign the measure, which has led to speculation that her signature could come on Valentine's Day.

Supporters fought back several amendments offered by Republicans, including one which would extend the bill's religious protections to include private businesses and individuals.

Jamie Pedersen, the measure's chief sponsor in the House, urged colleagues to approve the measure so that his four children could grow up knowing that their dads had made a “lifelong commitment to each other.”

“The name marriage signifies the unique recognition that society gives to harmonious, loyal, enduring and intimate relationships. … Mr. Speaker, I would like for our four children – Trygve, Leif, Erik and Anders – to grow up understanding that their daddy and their papa have made that kind of a lifelong commitment to each other. Marriage is the word that we use in our society to convey that idea,” Pedersen said.

Rep. Maureen Walsh, a Republican from Walla Walla, said she was voting in favor of marriage equality because her lesbian daughter is “a fabulous human being” for whom she someday wants to throw a wedding.

Since 2007, Washington has recognized gay couples with domestic partnerships. A 2009 expansion of the law – dubbed “everything but marriage” – gave gay couples all the protections of marriage.

Opponents of Gregoire's plan to make Washington the seventh state to legalize gay marriage have vowed to put the issue before voters in November. However, voters in 2009 rejected an effort to repeal the state's domestic partnerships.

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 and only 38 percent said they would support repeal.