Human Rights Campaign
Friday, November 6, 2009
The Hearts and Minds brought their Vote
Washington State voters approved the new "everything but marriage" law, and made history by expanding rights for domestic partners and marking the first time any state’s voters have approved a gay equality measure at the ballot box.
The new law adds benefits, such as the right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner, and rights related to adoption, child custody and child support.
During the campaign, opponents argued the law is a stepping-stone to gay marriage. Gay rights activists countered that while the marriage debate was for another day, same-sex couples need additional legal protections and rights in the meantime.
The measure asked voters to approve or reject the latest expansion of the state’s domestic partnership law, granting registered domestic partners additional state rights previously given only to married couples. Full-fledged gay marriage is still not allowed under Washington law. This is something that I have been saying for months to our fellow blended families;..."fight for the issues that concern you instead of the titles you wish to be known by..".
Gay equality laws in other states, ranging from civil rights to gay marriage, have either been implemented by the courts or legislative process (See Nov 4 blog post "Hearts and Minds"). Voters have rejected gay marriage 31 states, most recently in Maine, where voters repealed a gay marriage law on Tuesday.
The underlying domestic partnership law, which the Legislature passed in 2007, provided hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is no will.
Last year, lawmakers expanded the law to give domestic partners standing under laws covering probate and trusts, community property and guardianship.
"Our state made history today," said Anne Levinson, chairwoman of Washington Families Standing Together, and she's right. Just yesterday we were tweeting about how these laws for equality have long been implemented by legislatures, but here in Washington state, the people brought their own votes to the ballot boxes because in their hearts and in their minds, they knew it was the right thing to do.
Washington state, along with California, Oregon, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, have laws that either recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships that afford same-sex couples similar rights to marriage.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont, and will start in New Hampshire in January. What's important to note here also is that the voters in Washington had a reason to support this initiative that has not been on any other ballot in the nation; these domestic partnerships are also for heterosexuals as well as long as one partner is at least 62 years old. This helps those who are afraid of losing pensions and benefits if they legally remarry.
They brought in another demographic. Equality is not about leveling the playing field for gays, its simply about leveling the playing field for us all. You legislation has to include other demographics or the people of that state will never get behind it. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.