March 23, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 12
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Friday, Sep 25, 2020



Domestic Partnerships: Good intentions, bad legislation
Domestic Partnerships: Good intentions, bad legislation
by Dennis Cavalier - Special to the SGN

The Domestic Partnership Bill (SB 5336), passed in the Senate by a 28-19 vote. Soon, after it passes in the House and Governor Gregoire signs it, domestic partnerships will be made law here in Washington State.

By recognizing domestic partnerships, rights previously afforded only to heterosexual couples can now be shared equally... almost. The intention was to introduce domestic partnerships to our state to promote a more even playing field of rights, helping to ensure rights of survivorship, and long overdue recognition of the validity of same sex relationships. It also helps pry open the door to complete equality that GLBT persons have so far been denied entry to.

We still have a long road ahead of us, and this bill is not the end-all solution. However, it is often said that something is better than nothing, and I couldnt agree more.

So, what is wrong with this new law? Its easy to see if you were to read it in its entirety. By including heterosexual couples where at least one of them is age 62 or over, that which began as a fight for equality has ended up being exclusive.

Yes, heterosexuals (and bisexuals) under 62 have the right to marry. But in striving for an equality that serves everyone without prejudice, the passage of this bill took some of the wind of credibility out of our sails. In the months and years ahead, as we continue our pursuit, we owe it to ourselves to blaze a path of fairness and righteousness with an even hand. SB 5336 does the opposite of what we have been fighting to bring to an end. Adding inequality to a bill composed to gain equality sounds painfully discordant.

Worse yet, it opens a Pandoras Box of exclusivity that may invite valid legal opposition. In conversations with state representatives and their aides, this amendment was addressed with a healthy dose of disdain, and many of the objecting representatives whom I have had the opportunity to question claimed their no vote was based on precisely that issue.

Our reps. are lead by their caucus. Thats a sad fact of politics that probably wont change in our lifetimes. But there are some who were otherwise willing to vote against the leadership, and those of us who know how the political game is played are aware of the daring behind such an act. It speaks volumes to me, if not the rest of you, on the subject of true dedication and conviction to equality for all.

I still believe domestic partnerships is a victory we can celebrate, but in opening the door to legal challenges it also seems like a game of political hopscotch that might put us back two steps, after a gain of only one. Having fought so hard for so long, we ought to have introduced and fought for the passage of a bill that would remain solidly intact and which doesnt discriminate against anyone. This bill just doesnt meet that description, and I believe it leaves us all with some serious work left to be done.

Dennis Cavalier is an activist and writer based in the Puget Sound area.

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