The Washington state Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday in Vasquez v. Hawthorne that gay couples in long-term relationships have a legal right to the estates of their deceased partners. The Court based its decision on a legal concept aimed a protecting the interests of unmarried partners. A lower court ruled that the concept could not apply to gays because they could not legally marry. Justice Charles Johnson, author of the opinion, rejected that argument stating that the “equitability claims are not dependent on the ‘legality’ of the relationship between the parties, nor are they limited by gender or sexual orientation of the parties.” Lisa Stone, Executive Director of the Northwest Women’s Law Center, hailed the decision “a wonderful step forward in establishing that all families are the same before the law.”
Frank Vasquez, the long time partner of Robert Schwerzler, is claiming the estate of Schwerzler who died without a will in 1995. Schwerzler’s siblings have challenged the claim and deny that their brother was gay. Vasquez, however, shared numerous financial assets with Schwerzler. The Court ordered a new trial of the case, citing factual disputes.