OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Legislature edged closer to having enough support to legalize gay marriage Thursday as major businesses declared their approval and a conservative Democrat who once opposed same-sex marriage said he will now vote for it.

The state Senate is now just one vote shy of having enough backing to approve the bill, with a half-dozen lawmakers remaining uncommitted. Microsoft Corp. is among several prominent businesses that are publicly supporting the measure, with general counsel Brad Smith saying in a blog posting that the bill would "be good for our business and good for the state's economy."

"As other states recognize marriage equality, Washington's employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families," Smith said. Six other states allow gay marriage.

Sen. Jim Kastama of Puyallup announced his decision to support gay marriage in a press conference Thursday, becoming the 24th senator to commit a vote to the measure. The state House is widely expected to have enough support to pass gay marriage, and Gov. Chris Gregoire publicly endorsed the proposal earlier this month.

Kastama voted in 1998 for a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In 2009, he supported an expansion of the state's domestic partnership laws.

Kastama said some will likely never forgive him for his support gay marriage. But he said society has changed and that it is necessary for marriage to evolve to strengthen it as a valued institution.

"I think that is a progression that I think many people have gone through in our society," Kastama said. "I think we have all evolved, and I think this is a culmination of that."

Other businesses that declared their support for same-sex marriage Friday include RealNetworks Inc., NIKE Inc. and Vulcan Inc.



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