Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill passes; Governor expected to sign
April 15, 2009 · 5:50 PM
Expanding domestic partner rights first granted in 2007, the Washington State House of Representatives voted April 15 to pass into law additional rights for domestic partnerships.
The bill, which adds hundreds of rights and responsibilities to current law, passed the house on a 62-35 vote. The vote follows a 30-18 in the state Senate several weeks ago. Local representatives Deb Eddy, Ross Hunter, Larry Springer and Roger Goodman all supported the measure. The bill now heads to Governor Christine Gregoire's desk for a signature.
One of the chief sponsors of the bill, Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle), is the highest-ranking openly gay elected official in the state. Arguing in favor of the bill last month, he urged legislators to extend the rights of heterosexual married couples to domestic partnerships, which are not defined by sexual orientation.
"Though our passions may be strained, they must not break the bonds of affections," he said, quoting US President Abraham Lincoln. "He hoped that chord would appeal to the better angels of our nature."
Some of the changes to current law include increased rights for domestic partners to claim survivorship rights in pensions and tax benefits enjoyed by married couples. Those opposed said it would infringe religious freedom, cause social upheaval and - by implication - that children are more likely to become "delinquents" in homes not supported by both a man and a woman.
“We applaud the Washington state legislature for providing these important protections under Washington state law to committed lesbian and gay couples and we thank Senators Ed Murray and Joe McDermott and Representatives Jamie Pedersen, Dave Upthegrove, Jim Moeller and Marko Liias, as well as Equal Rights Washington for their leadership on this civil rights issue,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “This is another important step toward full equality, and it will provide tangible, much needed legal protections for families in Washington.”
The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Christine Gregoire for signing. In 2007, Governor Gregoire signed the first Domestic Partner bill into law, creating a domestic partner registry and providing some rights to lesbian and gay couples and their families. In 2008, the Governor signed legislation providing domestic partners with 160 of the more than 400 rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples. This year’s Domestic Partnership Expansion bill grants approximately 250 additional rights and responsibilities to registered domestic partners.
In addition to Washington, eleven states plus Washington, D.C. have laws providing at least some form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples, but no federal rights or benefits are.