Voting yes to uphold the law will keep us on track with the progress made so far to ensure a greater measure of fairness for same-sex couples and their families by adding benefits and obligations to domestic partnerships that already apply to married couples. The benefits are sensible additions to the 3-year-old law in 10 major areas, adding domestic partners to sections of the law where currently only spouses are mentioned.
Legislation in 2007 enabled same-sex couples over the age of 18 and heterosexual couples with one partner aged 62 or older to register their relationship with the state as a domestic partnership.
It provided them a few benefits granted to married couples under state law such as the right to visit a partner in a hospital, administer their deceased partner’s estate and inherit property from a partner.
The 2008 additions to law included granting same-sex couples who register with the state certain property and guardianship rights, and placed responsibilities on them that already apply to husbands and wives. For example, before the law, domestic partners of elected officials were not required to submit financial disclosure forms, as spouses of elected officials are. Now domestic partners must submit such information. That’s good for equality and transparency.
This year, the Legislature and Gov. Chris Gregoire expanded the law further with Senate Bill 5688, the specific bill targeted by the referendum.
The laws makes registered same-sex domestic partners indistinguishable under state law from married couples with the exception that they cannot marry. This is key — these protections are necessary precisely because gays and lesbians cannot legally marry.
The domestic partnership law helps bridge some gaps with other Washington state laws, such as the one that allows same-sex couples to adopt. Their legality as a family is now reinforced with rights that allow them to make decisions, and uphold obligations and responsibilities, that only loved ones and family members can and should make.
A yes vote on Referendum 71 will keep us right where we want to be, reaffirming our commitment to ensure fairness and equality for all Washington citizens.
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