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Washington Governor Signs Domestic Partnership Law, Referendum Campaign Begins

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation that expands the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners under Washington state law Monday. The new law expands the state’s two-year-old domestic partnership statute, which provided about 160 rights and responsibilities of the approximately 400 granted to married couples. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 250 additional rights and responsibilities are granted to couples with domestic partnerships under the new law.

The state House passed the bill in April on a 62 to 35 vote after the state Senate passed the legislation on a 30 to 18 vote in March.

Governor Gregoire said in a statement: “From the first bill I signed in 2007 to today’s bills, we have proudly made immeasurable strides on behalf of LGBT individuals and families. This represents the culmination of incredible work to treat all Washingtonians equally….people have come to know that lesbian and gay families are no different than their own. And what has naturally followed is the unsettling notion that despite the sameness of straight couples and gay and lesbian couples, there are, in fact, legal barriers that prevent the same treatment.”

Also on Monday, the state Attorney General’s office released information on Referendum 71 (see PDF), which aims to overturn the new law in elections next November. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the referendum’s sponsors must collect 120,577 valid signatures by July 25 for the measure to be placed on the November state ballot. If enough signatures are collected, the new law will be suspended until after the November election. The law’s opponents argue that it makes the legal rights and responsibilities of domestic partners and married couples nearly indistinguishable.

Sources:

Human Rights Campaign Press Release 4/16/09; Statement of Governor Chris Gregoire 5/18/09; Seattle Post Intelligencer 5/18/09

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