Washington’s Referendum 71, a measure approving the expansion of benefits provided under the state’s domestic partnership law, is projected to pass once all votes from Tuesday’s election are counted. About fifty percent of the ballots cast were counted as of yesterday, with 52 percent of voters approving the measure and 48 percent opposed, reports the New York Times. The state largely votes by mail, and final counts are expected late this week. A recent poll predicts that R-71 will pass by a slim margin of less than 82,000 votes out of 1.75 million ballots cast, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The Washington legislature first established domestic partnerships in 2007. Early this year Governor Chris Gregoire signed the so-called “everything but marriage” bill, which granted domestic partners even more benefits that had previously applied only to married couples, reports the Seattle Times. These benefits include the right to use sick leave to care for a partner and adoption, child custody and child support rights. In an attempt to overturn the law, opponents of gay rights successfully lobbied to add the referendum on the issue to this year’s election.
If R-71 passes, it will mark the first time gay rights are upheld by voters in any state election across the country, according to the Seattle Times.