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July 27, 2007
V 35 Issue 30

 
 
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'Just Registered:' Same-sex couples take advantage of new rights
'Just Registered:' Same-sex couples take advantage of new rights
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

Gay and Lesbian couples from across Washington State traveled to Olympia on Monday, July 23, to take advantage of new Domestic Partnership Registry, which provides a limited number of benefits to same-sex couples and senior citizens. The Secretary of State's office was well prepared for the long line that snaked around the building on the first day of the registry.

"I think the fact that all these couples are here this morning; all of us have experience something we were never able to experience before: state recognition of the validity of our relationship. At least in part," said State Senator Ed Murray, as he waited with his partner of 16 years, Michael Shiosaki.

A count down could be heard in the seconds leading up to the opening of the doors and crowd cheered as the first same-sex couples went inside. Jim Malatak, 64, and Rick Sturgill, 53, were the first in line.

"We are thrilled. We are expecting a baby in six weeks. So, to have some limited protect for our family is really affirming. It makes it a little easier to sleep at night," said State Rep. Jamie Pedersen, who also took advantage of the registry on Monday.

Willow Williams and Bonnie Aspen traveled to Spokane for the registry. They had married in Portland and stage a wedding each year at Spokane Pride. After 10 years of waiting, they still hold out hope for full marriage.

"This is not the end of the process. This is only one step necessary toward the giving us rights for the right now, for some of the things that one day will be, hopefully, automatic. This country is going to be very embarrassed in 15 years we didn't give couples, such as ourselves, the right to marry.

Once registered as domestic partners, couples walk away with more than a certificate and wallet ID card. They are entitled to benefits once reserved only for married couples, such as hospital visitation, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations, and the ability to inherit in the absence of a will.

The state's falls far short of civil unions, which are now offered I several states. In most cases, civil unions offer most if not all of the state benefits of marriage. However, the Domestic Partnership Registry is viewed as an important first step in Washington State.

The domestic partnerships were approved by the Legislature last spring, after the state Supreme Court upheld Washington's ban on same-sex marriage last year. The 1998 Defense of Marriage Act restricts marriage to unions between only a man and woman.

"It's a beautiful day. I think this is the first significant step for Washington. I really thank our legislative leaders who have supported this work," said Connie Watts, Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington. "I think that legislators, lawmakers, are going to see that couples are doing this all over the state. The opposition is not around. So, I think it is sending a signal that this is the right direction."

In addition to same-sex couples, unmarried, heterosexual senior couples also are eligible if one partner is 62 or older. Lawmakers passed the provision to help seniors who are at risk of losing their Social Security benefits or pensions if they were to marry. However, no heterosexual couples could be seen outside the Secretary of State's office on Monday.

As of Thursday morning, 331 Domestic Partnership registrations have been recorded.

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