Washington Lawmakers Pass Domestic Partnership Bill Giving Rights To Same-Sex Couples

Tuesday, April 10th 2007, 11:05 pm
By: News On 6

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) _ Same-sex couples would get rights such as hospital visitation and inheritance under a bill passed by the Washington Legislature to create domestic partnerships.

The bill, which won final passage in the House Tuesday on a 63-35 vote, moves on to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it.

The bill would create a domestic partnership registry with the state, and would establish rights for same-sex couples including the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations and inheritance rights when there is no will. To be registered, couples would have to share a home, not be married or in a domestic relationship with someone else, and be at least 18.

Proponents admit that ultimately marriage is their goal, but said that they don't want to rush the state into taking that step.

``You don't go from zero to a hundred instantly,'' said Sen. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who was the main sponsor of the domestic partnership measure. ``You have to work to bring people along.''

Opponents argued it was a ``marriage light'' bill that would dilute marriage.

``We are chipping away at the very foundations of this institution and of society,'' said Rep. Bill Hinkle, a Republican. ``This is taking us down a road we do not need to go.''

In a provision similar to California law, unmarried, heterosexual senior couples would also be eligible for domestic partnerships if one partner were at least 62. Lawmakers said that provision was included to help seniors who are at risk of losing pension rights and Social Security benefits if they remarry.

Last year a gay civil rights bill became law after nearly 30 years of failure in the Legislature. That measure added ``sexual orientation'' to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and credit on the basis of such characteristics as race and religion.