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Originally published February 5, 2009 at 5:40 PM | Page modified February 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Domestic-partnership rights bill draws fire at hearing

Opponents of granting same-sex couples more rights packed a hearing Thursday on a measure that would give domestic partners all of the rights that heterosexual couples have.

The Associated Press

Domestic-partnership bill hearing

OLYMPIA — Opponents of granting same-sex couples more rights packed a hearing today on a measure that would give domestic partners all of the rights that heterosexual couples have.

The bill would make changes to all remaining areas of state law where currently only married couples are addressed. The measure would add same-sex domestic partners to state statutes ranging from labor and employment to pensions and other public employee benefits.

"This is a long bill that looks pretty complicated, but the idea of it is fairly simple," said Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, the sponsor of the measure in the House. "We'd like to have equal treatment under state law for state-registered domestic partners."

But nearly 150 opponents, many of whom wore buttons that read, "Marriage. One Man. One woman," told lawmakers that the bill would be harmful to traditional marriage.

"It's our belief that this bill is actually a Trojan horse that appears to be built on equality and fairness, but it's actually destructive of society's greater welfare," Maureen Richardson, state director for Concerned Women for America of Washington, told lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee. "This bill is a continuation of the erosion of the special and unique status granted to married couples."

Last year, lawmakers expanded the partnership protections to sections of laws where previously only spouses were mentioned, including areas referring to probate and trusts, community property and homestead exemptions, and guardianship and powers of attorney.

The underlying domestic-partnership law, spearheaded by Seattle Democratic Sen. Ed Murray two years ago, provides hospital-visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is no will.

As of Thursday, 4,991 domestic-partnership registrations had been filed since the law took effect in July 2007.

David Cremeens, of Auburn, joined by his partner, Michael Riter, and their daughter Heaven, told lawmakers that legal recognition is important for his family.

"All we want is to have the same financial protections other loving couples have who happen to be married," he said. "It's important that the state, with this legislation, is setting an example that there should be simple fairness in the way we treat families."

The Senate held a public hearing on a companion bill Thursday afternoon. The bill is expected to be passed out of either the House or Senate committee by the end of next week, and it then would go to a floor vote.

A spokesman for Gov. Chris Gregoire, Pearse Edwards, said the governor supports the expansion measure. Gregoire signed the last two domestic-partnership bills into law, as well as a gay-civil-rights law that passed in 2006.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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