By Nicole Neroulias
OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - A bill to legalize gay marriage in Washington state now has enough votes to pass, a state senator who sponsored the legislation said on Monday, which would put it a major step closer to becoming the seventh state to fully recognize same-sex unions.
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray said supporters had secured the 25 votes needed to pass the bipartisan measure, which is in committee and will likely come to a final vote next month.
Governor Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, announced earlier this month that she would support the legislation, while the state House version, HB 2516, already has enough votes to pass.
Opponents of same-sex marriage have said that if the bill passes they will put the issue before voters on a ballot initiative in November.
"It will be difficult there's no doubt about it but I'm confident that the state is now with us on this issue, that on the issue of marriage equality we are now the mainstream," Murray said.
More than 40 U.S. states have outlawed same-sex marriages, while six states explicitly allow it: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa.
Gay marriage is also legal in the District of Columbia
Polls show sharp national division on same-sex marriage, and the issue is still divisive in Washington state, which tends to be split between a liberal coast, including Seattle, and a more conservative inland
Six prominent Pacific Northwest companies, including Microsoft and Nike, have officially endorsed the legislation.
"We believe that passing this bill would be good for our business and good for the state's economy," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog post last week.
On the other side, religious conservatives are amassing thousands of Washingtonians against the legislation, including voters who supported the state's expansion of domestic partnership benefits in recent years but draw the line at marriage.
The Catholic bishops of Washington issued a statement calling on "the citizens of this state to maintain the legal definition of marriage" and urging them to contact their state representatives to "request that they defend the current legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman."
(Reporting by Nicole Neroulias, Writing by Dan Whitcomb, Editing by Daniel Trotta and Paul Thomasch)