Washington State Gays Get ‘Everything But Marriage’


Moving beyond a 2006 Washington State Supreme Court ruling that insisted denying same-sex unions did not infringe on anybody’s rights, the state’s legislature insisted it does. First the Senate, and now the House have passed SB 5688, which expands existing domestic partnership laws to include what appears to be all remaining areas, granting same-sex partners the same rights as married folks — just without the word “marriage.” Next stop: Gov. Chris Gregoire’s desk, where she’s expected to sign it into law.

Ushered in by Democrats, the bill naturally met resistance by Republicans, who wanted to amend the language to further separate “marriage” from the rights the legislation granted. They also tried putting the measure to a vote by citizens. Neither effort worked out for them. Which means the 5,000 domestic partners who’ve registered since 2007 will ultimately enjoy all the rights and privileges of straight married types, but don’t get to use The M Word.

So what does the new bill provide? Where the old law, passed two years ago and backed by Sen. Ed Murray, provided “inheritance rights in cases where there was no will, hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations,” the new measure fills in these gaps, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

* Victims’ rights, including the right to receive notifications and benefits allowances.
* Business succession rights.
* Legal process rights, such as the ability to sign certain documents, the requirement to join in certain petitions, rights to cause of action, and ability to transfer licenses without charge.
* The right to use sick leave to care for a spouse.
* The right to wages and benefits when a spouse is injured, and to unpaid wages upon death of spouse.
* The right to unemployment and disability insurance benefits disability insurance issues
* Workers’ compensation coverage.
* Insurance rights, including rights under group policies, policy rights after death of spouse, conversion rights, and continuing coverage rights.

Next stop for marriage equality? New Hampshire, Maine, New York and New Jersey, where legislators will move on same-sex marriage bills.

As for Washington State, we’ll check back in a year or two, and see if we can upgrade that “domestic partnership” definition to a word that begins with “M.”