Domestic partnership bill passes state Senate
A domestic-partnership bill for gay and lesbian couples appears headed for state law.
Seattle Times staff reporter
OLYMPIA -- A domestic-partnership bill for gay and lesbian couples appears headed for state law.
The state Senate this afternoon passed the measure by a 28 to 19 vote after a long, emotional and at times heated debate. The bill is expected to easily pass the House. Gov. Christine Gregoire has said she supports the measure.
The legislation would give gays, lesbians, and unmarried heterosexuals age 62 and older the right to visit a partner in the hospital, inherit their property without a will and make funeral arrangements, among other things.
Opponents of the measure argued it would ultimately lead to gay marriage. "Call it what you want, but this bill is absolutely conferring rights that are reserved for married couples" to gays and lesbians, said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.
Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, said: "This bill is not about equal rights, it is about changing society in ways that will ultimately harm it."
Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the bill's lead sponsor, said he supports extending the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples, but this bill does not do that. Instead, he said, it extends some basic rights to those couples.
Under legislation that passed the state Senate today, couples wanting domestic-partnership status must:
• Share a residence.
• Be at least 18 years old.
• Not be married to another person or in a domestic partnership with anyone else.
• Be capable of consenting to the relationship.
• Not be blood relations.
• Be either members of the same sex, or if in a heterosexual partnership, have one person be at least 62 years old.
"Imagine for a moment your spouse was in the hospital and dying and you could not go into the room and hold her hand," Murray said. "This bill will do the work of justice and end that hurt."
The bill's key sponsors, a coalition of gay lawmakers in the House and Senate, have said they see the measure as the first step to gay marriage law. A bill that would allow gays and lesbian couples to marry died in committee earlier.
In the meantime, supporters say, the domestic partnership bill is a way to provide some basic rights that married couples already have.
Among other things, the bill would allow domestic partners to:
• Inherit when there is no will.
• Give consent for health care if a partner isn't competent.
• Make funeral arrangements.
• Authorize organ and tissue donation.
The bill requires a central state registry of domestic partnerships that would be kept at the Secretary of State's Office. Couples would have to file an affidavit of domestic partnership with the office and pay a filing fee.
During the debate, Murray noted that the state Legislature passed a law banning gay marriage in 1998, told lawmakers: "You have prevented us from marrying, please do not prevent us from caring for each other."
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8268 or email@example.com
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