Domestic Partnership
2:26 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Washington to recognize same-sex marriages from other states

Same-sex marriages performed in other states will be recognized as domestic partnerships in Washington State under a bill now awaiting Gov. Chris Gregoire's signature. 

House Bill 1649 passed the state senate Wednesday 28-19. It was already approved by the House of Representatives.

The bill's chief sponsor, Tacoma democrat Laurie Jinkins, tells The News Tribune she believes the measure is in line with public sentiment:

“I think the Legislature is a real representation of the public on this issue,” she said. “I think it’s tracking right along with the public, and I think in both places it has really picked up steam.”

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, released two weeks ago, shows national attitudes about same-sex marriage changing, with most Americans now supporting it, according to the survey.

Washington State's Domestic Partnership Law

The state's current domestic partnership was approved in 2007, and upheld by a statewide referendum vote in 2009. Called the "Everything But Marriage" law, it provides protection for same-sex couples on these issues, as listed by the Secretary of State's office:

 

  • Hospital visitation of a partner;
  • Participation in medical care decisions;
  • Access to health care information;
  • The administration of a deceased partner's estate;
  • Recognition as a domestic partner on a deceased partner's death certificate;
  • The ability to sue for wrongful death of a partner; and
  • The right to inherit property from a partner and to administer the partner's estate in the absence of a will.

 

What the New Law Would Do

HB 1649 would formally recognize same-sex marriages from the five states and the District of Columbia where they are legal. Presently, Washington's law recognizes domestic partnerships from other states, laws similar to its own. But it does not grant domestic partnerships to married same-sex couples, a specific prohibition in the state statute.  Those couples must register as domestic partners here. 

The new bill would grant domestic partnership recognition to married same-sex couples upon moving to Washington. 

Equal Rights Washington, an organization that fought for the state's domestic partner law and advocates for full marriage rights for same-sex couples. welcomes Jinkins' bill, according to the News Tribune's Katie Schmidt:

“What this bill did was really address a grave injustice,” (Equal Rights Washington's Joshua) Friedes said.

Schmidt reports five Republican senators backed the bill. But Vancouver Republican Don Benton was a vocal opponent:

“There’s really no need to do this reciprocity because our laws actually are really quite frankly much more liberal than many of the other states involved,” Benton said. “I think it leaves us open in the future in terms of being subjected to whatever any other legislature might pass.”

Governor Gregoire is expected to sign HB 1649.