updated 1/31/2006 2:55:11 PM ET 2006-01-31T19:55:11

Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a gay civil rights bill into law Tuesday, though the law may be held in limbo if opponents are successful in forcing a referendum.

The measure adds “sexual orientation” to the state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and credit.

The amendment, passed by the Legislature on Friday, makes Washington the 17th state to pass a law covering gays and lesbians, and the seventh to protect transgender people.

The law is scheduled to take effect in June, 90 days after the end of the Legislature’s session.

However, it would be frozen until a November vote if opponent Tim Eyman gets enough signatures by the June 7 deadline for a referendum.

In addition to seeking to remove “sexual orientation” from the law, Eyman is pushing an initiative that would prohibit state government from requiring quotas or other preferential treatment for any person or group “based on sexual orientation or sexual preference.”

The Senate’s passage of the bill Friday on a 25-23 vote, following House approval, was a major victory for gay rights activists who have watched the measure fail in the Legislature for nearly 30 years. Last year, it lost by just one vote in the Senate.

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