Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a bill that recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages with all the rights and protections given to registered domestic partnerships in Washington.
Legislators who supported the measure described it as a “technical correction” that closes a loophole in the law it replaces. Previously, Washington recognized only domestic partnerships and civil unions. But same-sex marriages received no benefits coverage.
Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, one of the bill’s sponsors, said that when state laws recognizing domestic partnerships were first written, gay marriage wasn’t legal in many places.
This led to some “very illogical results” as such laws changed.
Pedersen said that in many places domestic partnership laws have been replaced with same-sex marriage laws, and civil unions that would have been recognized in Washington “automatically became unrecognized as they matured into marriages in their state.”
There was no change in the people involved, he continued, but suddenly Washington was saying that they no longer received protection.
The bill’s original sponsor Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said this action closes “a hole in the law.”
“This bill is about fairness for all families,” Jinkins said when the bill passed the House last month. By passing Referendum 71 in 2009 and extending recognition of legal protections that amounted to “everything but marriage” for domestic partnerships, she said, “Washington voters decided they wanted all families to be able to protect themselves under Washington state law.”
Opposition Republicans argued that the bill brought Washington one step closer to legalizing gay marriage and breaking down families.
The governor also signed a bill requiring the entire state to use only mail-in voting, including last-holdout Pierce County, where ballot center voting is still allowed in addition to mail-in voting.
Washington will now be the second state, after Oregon, to vote entirely by mail.
Supporters say that getting all counties on the same page tightens up the voting process and eliminates the confusion caused by maintaining two different systems.
The bill was requested by the Secretary of State’s office and originally sponsored by Sen. Scott White, D-Seattle.