SEATTLE -- The partner of late Washington state Senator Cal Anderson says he never thought he'd see gay marriage legalized in the state, but today he's filled with mixed emotions.
"I'm so excited," says Eric Ishino. "Cal is probably up there right now with a big smile on his face."
The state Senate voted 28-21 Wednesday to approve a bill allowing same-sex couples to legally obtain a marriage license. The bill is expected to pass the House next week and then be signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Opponents vow to put the measure before voters in November.
Sen. Anderson was Washington's first openly gay legislator who fought for marriage equality for 11 years before his death of AIDS-related cancer in 1995.
Anderson, who was also a decorated Vietnam veteran, overcame adversity in Olympia, but never lived to see his dream of gay marriage become a reality.
"Some legislators didn't even want to sit next to him," Ishino remembers. "He knew it was going to be a long struggle. But he was a great leader and at least started the discussion."
Anderson told KING 5 in 1995, "I've done a lot of great things to educate people about gay issues. Now I can educate people about AIDS and how it affects the community."
Ishino himself has been a strong supporter of Sen. Ed Murray, who is also openly gay, and his efforts to pass the same sex marriage bill.
Ishino wonders how his partner may have reacted to this day.
"I just never thought in my lifetime that I would see this," he says. "But it’s OK. We always knew in our heart that we were married."