The Washington state Legislature has agreed to expand a domestic partnership law and grant gay and lesbian couples all the rights and benefits that the state offers married couples, reports the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

The Democratic-controlled House passed the bill Wednesday along a mostly party-line vote of 62 to 35 after nearly two hours of debate. Senators approved the bill in March with a 30 to 18 vote.

Governor Chris Gregoire, a Democrat who assumed office in 2005 and signed the original 2006 domestic partnership law and two previous expansions, has said she will sign the bill into law.

“Our state is one that thrives on diversity,” Gregoire said in a statement. “We have to respect and protect all of the families that make up our communities.”

The bill was sponsored by openly gay Senator Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who sponsored the state's domestic partnership law in 2007, while openly gay Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Seattle Democrat, sponsored the measure in the House.

Washington state lawmakers defined marriage as an institution between a man and a woman when it banned gay marriage in 1998. In 2006, the Washington Supreme Court upheld the legality of the law.

Last year, lawmakers successfully passed a bill that greatly expanded the partnership protections, moving from only 11 rights to over 170.

The 110-page bill expands benefits further to include all remaining areas previously only granted to heterosexual married couples. The measure was labeled by the media as the “everything but marriage” bill.

Opponents of the bill say it redefines marriage and violates the state's gay marriage ban.

“We cannot elevate the legal standing of domestic partnerships to equate with marriage and not have profound impact on the status of marriage in this state,” said Rep. Jay Rodne, a Republican from Snoqualmie.

Five other states recognize gay and lesbian unions without calling it marriage including New Jersey, California, New Hampshire, Oregon and the District of Columbia. This year, lawmakers in Hawaii and New Mexico rejected efforts to recognize gay unions.