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SGN EXCLUSIVE - Gov. Gregoire talks about Domestic Partnership Registry
SGN EXCLUSIVE - Gov. Gregoire talks about Domestic Partnership Registry
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

For the first time since the state's new Domestic Partnership Registry went into effect, Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire shares her feelings candidly about the legislation she signed into law. In an e-mail to the SGN, she answered our questions about the new law, which took effect last month.

The new law, formerly Senate Bill 5336, created a central state registry of domestic partnerships at the Secretary of State's office. Once registered, same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples in which one partner is 62 years-of-age or older, are entitled to certain rights, privileges and responsibilities once reserved only for married heterosexual couples. The law extends the right of a person to visit a partner in the hospital; make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner; make funeral arrangements; and attain inheritance rights in the absence of a will, among others.

"This is a proud moment for me as Governor and an important step forward for our state," said Gov. Gregoire, before signing the bill on April 21, 2007, during a ceremony at the state Capitol Building. "This new law will establish some of the rights and responsibilities that same-sex couples and many of our state's families need."

The signing came only a year after the Washington State Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, upheld a 1998 law that bars same-sex couples from marriage. However, the justices left open to legislators the option of legalizing marriages for same-sex couples or adopting laws to extend new rights to same-sex couples.

Seattle Gay News: How do you view the Domestic Partnership Registry and its purpose?
Gov. Christine Gregoire: It was a privilege for me to sign the registry bill into law. The registry is a practical means of providing same-sex couples and their families some basic protections for their families without the need for costly legal contracts.

SGN: Did you see any of the coverage on TV or in the newspapers regarding the joyous scene outside the Secretary of State's Office after registrations began. If so, what was your reaction to the coverage?
Gregoire: I did and it is clear that same-sex couples have been waiting a long time for the state to recognize their relationships. While the State of Washington offers domestic partnership benefits to state employees, and, just last year, we made it clear that we will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; the basic, public recognition of the state's support for same-sex couples is having that state-issued piece of paper recognizing that partnership.

I have to hand it to those first couples who were highlighted in the news. It is not easy to be the first in anything and essentially be put under the microscope -- but it was an important day for so many Washingtonians and I am honored that, after all the years of work, I am the governor who signed that bill into law.

SGN: What do you say to those who believe the Domestic Partnership Registry is akin to "separate, but equal" of our American past?
Gregoire: One of the more disheartening aspects of the State Supreme Court opinion (upholding the state's Defense of Marriage Act) was the disregard for children in our state who are lovingly raised and nurtured in homes with two moms or two dads, or even homes with just one mom or one dad.

I respect the work of a co-equal branch of government; however, I do hope that the Supreme Court decision will not deter us from continuing to work to ensure that discrimination of any kind is fully eliminated from Washington laws.

And it hasn't. Less than a year after the decision, citizens rallied and worked with the Legislature and with me and we now have the Domestic Partnership Registry. I cannot say it enough: The rights and responsibilities afforded to one segment of our population must be rightfully bestowed equally to all citizens of this state. Following a steady path will get us there.
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