governor Chris Gregoire signed into law Saturday in
Olympia a measure to create domestic partnerships, giving
gay and lesbian couples some of the same rights that
come with marriage.
establishes a domestic-partnership registry and provides
same-sex couples with such rights as hospital
visitation, the ability to authorize autopsies and
organ donations, and inheritance rights when there is
''It offers the
hope that one day all lesbian and gay families will be
treated truly equal under the law,'' said state senator Ed
Murray, who is one of five openly gay lawmakers in the
To be registered,
couples have to share a home, not be married or in a
domestic relationship with someone else, and be at least 18.
heterosexual senior couples will also be eligible to
register if one partner is at least 62. Lawmakers said
that provision, similar to one in California law, was
included to help seniors who are at risk of losing
pension rights and Social Security benefits if they remarry.
a standing ovation from about 200 people in the ornate
reception room at the state capitol.
''This is a very
proud moment for me as governor, to make sure the rights
of all of our citizens are equal,'' Gregoire said.
People in the
crowd cried as Gregoire relayed stories of couples who
testified before lawmakers this year about being denied
access to dying partners in the hospital or not being
allowed to plan their funerals.
''It is time we
put an end to these stories,'' she said. ''This simply
allows our seniors and our same-sex partners to rely on each
other and to care for each other when they are faced
with life and death situations. These are the rights
of all Washingtonians.''
The new law will
take effect in July. It comes nearly a year after the
state supreme court upheld Washington's ban on same-sex
marriage in a 5-4 decision, ruling that state
lawmakers were justified in passing the 1998 Defense
of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to unions between
a man and woman.
register in person with the secretary of state's office in
Olympia or by mail.
the new law will dilute traditional marriage.
''I think it's an
unfortunate step backward, not knowing where it will
lead us culturally,'' said Joseph Fuiten, a Bothell pastor
who is the leader of Positive Christian Agenda, a
state group of Christian organizations opposed to
same-sex marriage. ''Giving marriage-lite benefits
without the benefit of marriage strikes me as not a good
idea.'' (Rachel La Corte, AP)