State House grants more rights for gay couples

OLYMPIA — A bill vastly expanding rights for same-sex couples in Washington is on its way to the governor to be signed.

From there, it could land on November’s ballot for voters to consider repealing.

Wednesday, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved legislation giving same-sex domestic partners new privileges ranging from labor and employment to pensions and employee benefits. It passed on a mostly partisan 62-35 vote.

Gov. Chris Gregoire issued a statement saying she is “looking forward” to signing it.

“I want to thank the legislators who worked tirelessly to get this bill passed in the House,” she said in the statement. “Our state is one that thrives on diversity. We have to respect and protect all of the families that make up our communities.”

Washington law known as the Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman. It’s been upheld by the state Supreme Court.

This bill does not undo that. It does amend dozens of state statutes pertaining to “married spouses” by adding the words “domestic partners.”

These new rights, when combined with ones granted domestic partners in 2008, effectively make same-sex couples and married couples legally indistinguishable in the eyes of the state.

It’s why opponents call this the “everything but marriage” bill and Republican lawmakers said Wednesday it will undoubtedly lead to court fights aimed at making marriage legal for same-sex couples.

“If we give same-sex couples the exact same legal footing as married couples there will be legal grounds for throwing out the Defense of Marriage Act,” said Rep. Matt Shea, R-Mead.

Supporters said it is foremost about strengthening families and treating all loving relationships equally. Though some members want the state to legalize same-sex marriage, they said this bill doesn’t do it.

“We need to have a debate about marriage. This is not about marriage today. To me this is about family,” said Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, one of a handful of gay lawmakers. “Someday I hope to find a partner and we could take the final step to marriage. We couldn’t in this state.”

As lawmakers debated, others planned a campaign to repeal it.

Representatives of social and religious conservative groups, including the Washington Values Alliance and Faith and Freedom Network, met for several hours in Olympia on Wednesday developing a strategy for a referendum.

“We’ll be ready to make an announcement imminently,” said Larry Stickney of Arlington, who is president of the alliance.

“We see this as the marriage bill,” he said. It will be used to mount another challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act in hopes of getting same-sex nuptials legalized by judicial fiat, he said.

Two years ago, the Legislature made it legal for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples in which at least one person is 62 years or older to register with the state as domestic partnerships.

As of Wednesday, 5,246 domestic partnerships had registered with the state.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Tala Davey-Wraight, 3, is thrown in the air by her dad Oscar Davey-Wraight, one of the Summer Meltdown headliners also known as Opiuo, during Cory Wong’s set on Thursday, July 28, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After Monroe debut, no Summer Meltdown music fest in 2023

Organizers announced Wednesday they would “take the year off in order to figure out the best path forward for Summer Meltdown in 2024.”

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Mountlake Terrace council taps planning commissioner for open seat

With five votes, Rory Paine-Donovan was affirmed to join the ranks of the Mountlake Terrace City Council.

Federal agents seized many pounds of meth and heroin, along with thousands of suspected fentanyl pills, at a 10-acre property east of Arlington in mid-December 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office) 20201223
Leader of Snohomish County fentanyl, meth ring gets federal prison

A search of Cesar Valdez-Sanudo’s property in Arlington unearthed kilos of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Karla Wislon holds a champagne glass while celebrating the closing sale of her home in Palm Springs, Ca. on May 14, 2021. (Family photo)
Former state Rep. Karla Wilson, 88, remembered as ‘smart, energetic’

Wilson served the 39th Legislative district from 1985 to 1991. She died Dec. 31.

CEO Amy King standing outside of a pallet shelter. (Courtesy of Pallet Shelter)
After rapid rise, Everett’s Pallet hits milestone: 100 shelter villages

Temporary home manufacturer Pallet hires locals who have “experienced homelessness, substance abuse or the justice system.”

Locals from the group Safe Lynnwood gather in front of the Ryann Building on 196th Street SW to protest the opening of a methadone clinic in the building on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Despite controversy, Lynnwood opioid treatment center opens its doors

For weeks, protesters have objected to the center opening near Little League fields and a Boys and Girls Club.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Lobbyist barred from WA Capitol after ruling he stalked representative

State Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, obtained a domestic violence protective order against longtime lobbyist Cody Arledge.

Charlie Pancerzewski (Courtesy of Pancerzewski family)
Mukilteo citizen watchdog, 83, spoke for ‘the facts and the truth’

“It is fitting that the public see (Charlie Pancerzewski’s) name when they get up to the podium for public comment,” the mayor said.

A suspect removes a rifle bag from a broken rear window of a Seattle police car on May 30 in downtown Seattle. An Everett man, Jacob D. Little, 24, has been charged with the theft of the high-powered rifle stolen from the car. This image is from the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. 20200904
Everett man sentenced for stealing police gun in Seattle protest

Jacob Little, 26, now faces second-degree murder charges for allegedly killing a man in Renton in August 2020.

Most Read