OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law on April 21 a measure to create domestic partnerships in the state, giving homosexual couples some of the same rights as married couples.
"This is a very proud moment for me as a governor, to make sure the rights of all of our citizens are equal," Gregoire said.
"We are deeply disappointed in the actions of our legislature, especially in light of the amendments presented to them to give some of the benefits being requested without the title of 'domestic partners' and include others who are not eligible to marry, eliminate the participation of seniors, and give the people of Washington state a voice on this issue," said Cheryl Haskins, executive director of Allies for Marriage and Children. "This speaks clearly to us that they want to move in the direction of gay 'marriage' which was publicly stated on numerous occasions by the bill's sponsors."
The new law will create a domestic partnership registry in order to provide homosexual couples hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and oversee inheritance rights when there is no will.
To be registered, couples must share a home, not be married or in a domestic relationship with someone else and be at least 18. Unmarried heterosexual couples will also be eligible to register if one partner is at least 62 years old.
"It offers the hope that one day all families will be treated truly equal under the law," said state Sen. Ed Murray, one of five openly gay lawmakers in the legislature.
"Giving marriage-like benefits without the benefit of marriage is an unwise social experiment that could have devastating cultural consequences," said Joe Fuiten, president of Positive Christian Agenda. "It is another blow to the importance of marriage where children can grow up with a mother and a father."
Fuiten cited a March 2007 Elway poll, which found that less than half of Washingtonians support benefits provided by the new law. He described the bill signed by the governor as "raw political force exerted against an unwilling public."
The new law takes affect in July and comes nearly a year after the state Supreme Court upheld Washington state's ban on homosexual marriage. In a 5-4 decision, the ruling stated that lawmakers were justified in passing the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act that restricts marriage to the union of one man and one woman.