Task Force applauds passage of domestic partnership bill in Washington state, advocacy efforts of state partner ERW
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
WASHINGTON, April 11 — By a 63–35 vote, the Washington House passed a domestic partnership bill yesterday that provides same-sex couples in Washington state access to critical protections and responsibilities. The bill passed the state Senate on March 1. The measure now moves to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.
The Task Force applauds the tireless work of its capacity building partner, Equal Rights Washington (ERW), Washington’s gay state lawmakers — Sen. Ed Murray and Reps. Joseph McDermott, David Upthegrove, James Moeller and Jamie Pedersen — as well as the many straight legislative allies in securing this victory.
“This proves the benefit of building our community’s political power from the ground up. Equal Rights Washington made it a priority to elect fair-minded legislators and to bring hundreds of its members to Olympia to personally lobby their legislators,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “We commend Equal Rights Washington and the supportive state lawmakers for this important victory on behalf of all Washington families. We know the road to full equality is long, and this is an important step. We look forward to the day when legislators stand for our freedom to marry — equality, no more, no less.”
The Task Force looks forward to supporting ERW as it pushes on for full marriage equality. Over the past two years, the Task Force has provided technical assistance, training and funding in an effort to assist ERW in strengthening its capacity and impact throughout Washington state.
“Passage of the domestic partnership bill is a historic occasion. Only one year ago, after a 29-year lobbying effort, the Washington Senate passed, by just one vote, an anti-discrimination law. One year later, after an election cycle that saw equality-minded lawmakers sweep into the Legislature, it passed a domestic partnership bill,” said Barbara Green, ERW’s interim executive director.
“This bill will provide thousands of couples with essential protections during their most vulnerable times: sickness, death and incapacity. Loved ones will be able to be together as their partners lay sick or dying in the hospital or to provide their partner with the type of funeral arrangements they would have wanted,” she added. “With the basic protections provided by the domestic partnership bill in place, Equal Rights Washington will work with its legislative, organizational and faith-based allies to secure full marriage equality. Only marriage equality will provide LGBT families the legal protections they need and the dignity LGBT families and individuals deserve.”
Green noted the critical importance of LGBT people and straight allies sharing their stories to help open hearts and minds. ERW will be leading efforts to assist LGBT people, their families and allies organize and tell their stories statewide in order to move toward full marriage equality.
Once enacted, Washington will join Connecticut, New Jersey, Hawaii, Vermont, California, Maine and the District of Columbia in offering to same-sex couples some of the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage.
Absent the ability to marry in Washington, same-sex Washingtonian couples are denied hundreds of state and federal benefits and responsibilities critical to partnership and familial success. While not fully remedying the inequities caused by the inability to access the rights and responsibilities of marriage, the domestic partnership bill is a significant step forward. It allows same-sex partners presumptive parentage of children of the partnership, visitation of each other in the hospital, medical decision-making authority, and rights of inheritance without a will. It also provides rights and protections to senior couples who choose not to marry due to unfair economic penalties.
The domestic partnership bill is particularly critical to the welfare of the thousands of children currently being raised by same-sex Washingtonian couples. According to analysis of the 2000 Census figures performed by the Task Force Policy Institute, nearly a quarter of the same-sex households in Washington contain at least one child under the age of 18. The domestic partnership bill will help these children access, through their parents, essential familial benefits such as health insurance, life insurance benefits and child support.
Polls show that the majority of Washingtonians believe same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as married opposite-sex couples. The domestic partnership bill is an important step in that direction.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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