Domestic Partnerships In Washington State. Is it enough?

Washington’s newly passed Domestic Partnership law went into effect July 23, 2007, and couples lined up by the dozens to register their relationships.

The registry offers some legal standing for same-sex and straight couples.

ACLU Legislative Director Jennifer Shaw is pleased with the law, “This measure will provide many vital protections to same-sex couples in committed relationships. Its passage is an exciting first step toward the ultimate goal of marriage for all couples.”

Domestic partnership in Washington actually provides less than a dozen rights and responsibilities. Gay-rights supporters want full-fledged marriage for same-sex couples and all of the legal rights and responsibilities that it confers. Critics and supporters of the new law say the issue is far from settled.

Equal Rights Washington says, “Don’t get us wrong, we won’t stop until we have full equal marriage.”

Some of the rights and obligations include hospital visitation, participation in medical care decisions, and inheritance rights. But the couples will not be able to file their federal taxes jointly or receive partner benefits from Social Security or other federal rights.

After Governor Gregoire approves, Washington will be the eighth state in the nation to recognize domestic partnerships. Other states that provide legal recognition and protections for same-sex couples and their families are Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, Maine and Hawaii. Massachusetts allows same-sex couples to marry.

The Domestic Partnership registration forms and information are now available on the Secretary of State’s website.