The Washington state Senate has
approved a bill that expands an existing domestic partnership law to
give gay and lesbian couples all the benefits of marriage except the
name, reports The Associated Press.
Senators passed the measure on a mostly
party line 30-18 vote Tuesday. The bill now heads to the House.
The 110-page bill expands benefits
offered by a 2007 domestic partnership law to include all remaining
areas currently only granted to heterosexual married couples.
The bill is being sponsored by openly
gay Senator Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who sponsored the state's
domestic partnership law in 2007, while openly gay Rep. Jamie
Pedersen (D-Seattle) is sponsoring the measure in the House.
Washington state lawmakers defined
marriage as an institution between a man and a woman when it banned
gay marriage in 1998. In 2006, the Washington Supreme Court upheld
the legality of the law.
Last year, lawmakers successfully
passed a bill that greatly expanded the partnership protections,
moving from only 11 rights to over 170.
“You have denied us that right [of
marriage],” Murray is quoted by the AP. “Do not deny us the
right to care for our families and build our lives.”
The bill is expected to face little
resistance in the Democratically led House, where 60 out of 98
representatives have already signed onto the bill. Washington state
Governor Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, has expressed her support
for the measure. Gregoire, who assumed office in 2005, signed the
2006 domestic partnership law, and the two previous expansions in
2007 and 2008.
Opponents of the measure say the
state's domestic partnership law redefines marriage. If passed, the
measure is likely to face a challenge with opponents claiming it
violates the state's gay marriage ban.
“Same-sex couple have the right to
form meaningful relationships. But I don't think they have the right
to redefine marriage for all of us,” Senator Janea Holmquist, a
Republican from Moses Lake, told the AP.