Wednesday, April 15, 2009

House approves equal rights for domestic partners

In one of the most closely watched debates of this session, the House this afternoon passed legislation to broaden domestic-partnership rights. Senate Bill 5688, sponsored by Sen. Ed Murray, garnered bipartisan support and will ensure that registered domestic partners receive all of the state law rights and responsibilities of married spouses. Rep. Jamie Pedersen, who sponsored the identical companion bill in the House (HB 1727), led a broad group of supporters who spoke out on the House floor today. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for her expected approval.

Roughly 5,200 domestic partnerships are registered with the Secretary of State, spanning 278 cities and towns across the entire state in every legislative district. Key rights and obligations in this bill include death benefits for the partners of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty, pension benefits for the partners of teachers and other public employees, the right to adopt a partner’s child without paying for a home study and more.

In total, the bill adds about 280 rights and obligations to the 197 already provided under the exiting domestic partnership law so that state registered domestic partners and married couples are treated the same for all state law purposes. This legislation builds on two previous years of legislation in 2007 and 2008.