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WA: Domestic partnership expanded to full marital benefits under new legislation

Washington State proves you can move the bar forward over time. The domestic partnerships law, with the passage of SB 5688, is functionally equivalent to civil marriage. As we all know, separate isn’t equal, but this provides protections many of us would gladly take while we wait for federal action. Suck on it, Ken Hutcherson.

What some have characterized as the final step in our state’s domestic partnership effort passed the state Senate today on a 30 to 18 vote.

Senate Bill 5688 would treat same-sex families the same as married families under Washington law.  

“Our state is facing historic jobless numbers. This is a very scary time for Washington families, no matter who they are made up of,” said Sen. Joe McDermott, D-West Seattle, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Now, more than ever, every family must have the same protections under the law.”

Legislation in previous years has succeeded in providing basic rights and responsibilities to domestic partners, but hundreds of other rights extended to married couples are denied to domestic partners. SB 5688 would change the remaining laws that treat spouses and domestic partners differently.

Examples of the rights and responsibilities that would be extended to gay and lesbian families under this measure include:

* the right to use sick leave to care for a partner;

* pension benefits;

* workers’ compensation coverage; and

* the right to unemployment and disability benefits.

“This measure doesn’t impact free speech. This measure doesn’t dictate any school curriculum. It doesn’t require any religious groups to recognize any relationships,” McDermott said. “But it does provide real security to our families across this state.”

Since the state’s domestic partner registry was created in 2007, nearly 5,000 couples living among all 49 Legislative districts have registered to become domestic partners. The 2007 legislation established the registry and ensured parity between married couples and domestic partners for 23 rights and responsibilities. More than 170 rights were added in 2008 legislation, but 283 other laws remain unchanged.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding