Domestic partnerships expanded to include leave, custody, child support
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state voters on Tuesday, Nov. 3, appeared to have narrowly approved the state’s new "everything but marriage" law that marks a significant expansion of rights for same-sex couples.
As of late Wednesday, Referendum 71 was leading 52 percent to 48 percent. Half of remaining ballots to be counted were from King County, where it was being approved by a margin of 2-1.
The measure asked voters to approve or reject the final expansion to the state’s domestic partnership law, which grants registered domestic partners additional state-granted rights currently given only to married couples.
There was an east-west divide to the results — it passed in 10 counties in traditionally more liberal western Washington, including King County. Eastern Washington counties overwhelmingly rejected it.
"This is a remarkable statement by the voters of Washington," said Anne Levinson, chairwoman of Washington Families Standing Together, the group fighting to keep the law on the books. "They have a history of being fair-minded and compassionate, and they’ve proven that once again."
Levinson said that if the vote trend continued, "we’ll be making history in our state in moving forward toward full equality for gay and lesbian families in our state."
The expanded law adds benefits, such as the right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner, and rights related to adoption, child custody and child support.
Opponents warned that gay marriage will be the next step in Washington state.
"I think it will be immediate," said Gary Randall of Protect Marriage Washington, which pushed to get the referendum on the ballot. "Now was the time to stand against it."
The law was originally supposed to take effect July 26 and will now finally go on the books after being approved by voters. If it had been rejected, previously enacted legislation on domestic partnerships with fewer benefits to gay couples would have remained in place.
The underlying domestic partnership law, which the Legislature passed in 2007, provided hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is no will. Under state law, senior couples can register as domestic partnerships as well. Last year, lawmakers expanded that law to give domestic partners standing under laws covering probate and trusts, community property and guardianship.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 06, 2009.