Under a bill passed Wednesday, same-sex domestic partners in Washington state will now have all the rights and benefits the state offers married couples. Controlled by the Democrats, the state House approved the measure already passed by the Senate. The vote divided along party-lines 62-35.
"Our state is one that thrives on diversity," said Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), who confirmed she will sign it into law. "We have to respect and protect all of the families that make up our communities."
The previous domestic partnership measures provided hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is no will with protections in probate and trusts, community property and guardianship. The new bill expands these rights by also referring to partnerships alongside marriages in remaining areas of state law where currently only married couples are mentioned. The statutes range from labor and employment rights to pensions and other public employee benefits.
Opponents said the measure would have a detrimental effect on traditional marriage.
"We cannot elevate the legal standing of domestic partnerships to equate with marriage and not have profound impact on the status of marriage in this state," said Rep. Jay Rodne (R).
Joseph Fuiten, a Bothell pastor who leads the Positive Christian Agenda, a state group of Christian organizations opposed to same-sex marriage, said his group and others are weighing whether to try to get enough signatures for a ballot initiative to overturn the expanded measure.
Fuiten said he believes the law will have "severe consequences" over time.
Go to Equal Rights Washington to find out how you can help prevent equal rights opponents from pulling off a "Prop 8" in Washington state.