Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pending legislation in Washington would confer upon domestic partnerships all rights and duties of marriage

03/31/09 Yakima-Herald Republic

Washington is among nine states that have laws on civil unions and domestic partnerships. It may soon join five states whose laws also extend to civil unions the same rights and duties of marriage.

SB 5688 expands the rights and responsibilities of Washington state-registered domestic partnerships. According to the bill digest, it "declares that for all purposes under state law, state registered domestic partners shall be treated the same as married spouses." The state Senate has already passed the legislation. The House Committee on Ways and Means will hold a public hearing on the bill on April 6th. (A companion bill, HR 1727, appears to be on hold before the House Rules Committee.)

The Yakima-Herald Republic reports that the "sponsor of Senate Bill 5688, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, has not disguised the fact he sees it as a step toward legalized gay marriage in Washington state." Not surprisingly, his candidness has inflamed opposition from religious organizations. "Groups opposed to gay marriage, such as the Washington Values Alliance and the Bellevue-based Faith and Freedom Alliance, promise to file a referendum putting the matter before the state's voters."

Several legislators were interviewed, including two Republicans who have crossed party lines to support the legislation. Both have friends or sons who are gay. "Society itself has to wake up," Ken Lewis, president of the Yakima gay social group First Fridays. "But some of it [incremental acceptance of same-sex marriage] is going to come from person-to-person contact. In other words, it's harder to discriminate against someone you know."

The prospect of changing public opinion concerns the Washington Values Alliance, which believes that SB 5688 would give same-sex couples opportunity to raise an equal-protection challenge to the state's Defense of Marriage Act, just as happened in California. Among its other reasons to oppose the legislation, Alliance President Larry Stickney said that "[i]f same-sex marriage becomes the law in Washington, every public school will be forced to teach that same-sex 'marriage' and homosexuality are perfectly normal." Opponents of same-sex marriage share a fear of classroom instruction contrary to the religious values of parents. Nicole Theis, executive director of the Delaware Family Policy Council, recently expressed this fear in testimony for SB 27, Delaware's defeated constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages. And so have proponents of Prop. 8.

No comments:

Commentators, Subjects and Cases