After making it out of both houses of the Legislature Wednesday, a bill to a give same-sex couples from other states more legal recognition in Washington has cleared most of the hurdles it needs to get through to become state law.
In a 28-19 vote, the Washington Senate sent House Bill 1649, which would recognize same-sex marriages from other states as domestic partnerships in Washington, on to the governor for approval, and if she signs it, gay rights advocates said would remove a dangerous loophole in legal protections for same-sex couples.
“What this bill did was really address a grave injustice,” said Joshua Friedes, executive director of the gay-rights group Equal Rights Washington. “This is just a wonderful development for Washington.”
He said the reason his group had been supporting this bill was that, although gay and lesbian couples are allowed to register for a domestic partnership in Washington and Washington recognizes domestic partnerships from other states, it does not recognize same-sex marriages.
That can become a problem, said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Laurie Jinkins, because people married in another state who travel to Washington could be prevented from seeing their spouses in the hospital, for instance, if they had a medical emergency.
Jinkins, a Tacoma Democrat and the first openly lesbian representative to serve in the state Legislature, said this bill would make sure Washington voters got what they had asked for when they approved Referendum 71, a 2009 ballot measure to give domestic partners the same rights and responsibilities as married couples.
“It’s a very straightforward bill; some would even say it’s technical,” said Jinkins. “We’re just recognizing what voters in this state have said they wanted to do.”
The proposal has faces some opposition in the Legislature, however.
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, voted against the bill in committee and again on the Senate floor, saying Washington gives enough protection to gay and lesbian couples already and it could be dangerous to allow laws passed in other states to take effect in Washington.
“There’s really no need to do this reciprocity because our laws actually are really quite frankly much more liberal than many of the other states involved,” Benton said. “I think it leaves us open in the future in terms of being subjected to whatever any other legislature might pass.”