Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is
expected to sign a bill into law today that expands a domestic
partnership law to grant gay and lesbian couples all the rights and
benefits that the state offers married couples except the name,
reports The News Tribune.
The Democratic-controlled House passed
the bill, dubbed the “everything but marriage bill” by the media,
in April along a mostly party-line vote of 62 to 35 after nearly two
hours of debate. Senators approved the bill in March with a 30 to 18
Gregoire, a Democrat who assumed office
in 2005, signed the original 2006 domestic partnership law and two
“Our state is one that thrives on
diversity,” Gregoire said in a statement after the House vote. “We
have to respect and protect all of the families that make up our
The bill was 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, a Seattle Democrat, sponsored 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 constitutionality of the law.
Last year, lawmakers successfully
passed a bill that greatly expanded the partnership protections,
moving from only 11 rights to over 170. The 110-page bill expands
benefits further to include all remaining areas previously only
granted to heterosexual married couples.
Opponents announced an attempt to
repeal the bill in November, even before it has become law. An
effort one gay marriage foe is calling unwinnable.
Gary Randall, president of the Faith
and Freedom Network, says his group filed Referendum 71 because the
new bill is too close to marriage and violates the law.
“The bill ... elevates homosexual
relationships to that of traditional marriage, thus eliminating any
legal difference between domestic partnerships and marriage,”
Randall wrote in a blog entry posted on the group's website.
“I do not believe a majority [of]
Washingtonians believe in homosexual marriage, nor do they want to
become a national attraction for homosexuals from other states and
countries,” he adds.
But at least one gay marriage opponent
is staying out of the fight, arguing that opponents should be
organizing for an imminent gay marriage battle.
“Why fight a battle you can't win?
It will cause you to lose a war you can win,” Joseph Fuiten, a
Bothell pastor who is leader of Positive Christian Agenda, told the
paper. “It will undermine our position when it comes to fighting
the marriage battle.”
Backers of Referendum 71 have until
July 25 to gather more than 120,500 valid voter signatures to qualify
for the November ballot. A process that cannot begin until after the
bill becomes law. If the measure qualifies for the ballot, the law
would be delayed until after the results of the November election are