The state Senate has taken a big step toward fuller rights for domestic partners. Don't forget the real goal, though: equality in marriage.
On March 24, the Senate passed a bill that would remove state barriers to domestic partners conducting their lives as a family. Under SB5688, Lesbian and Gay partners would have the same rights to sick leave to care for a spouse, insurance rights and a variety of legal process rights.
On a 30-to-18 vote, the Senate passed the measure to complete the process of giving domestic partners all the same rights and responsibilities under state law as those applied to married couples. The House should speed the measure to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature.
Assuming good sense prevails in the House, the final passage of the bill will be a historic day. But implementation of parts of the measure won't go into effect until as late as 2014, principally ones with fiscal impacts, such as pensions and survivor benefits. And the measure falls short of the equal respect, recognition and honesty that all family relationships deserve in the 21st century.
State action also won't deal with the inequalities faced under federal law. Testimony on the bill indicated that there are more than 1,100 federal rights and protections still reserved for married couples.
In a news release, Sen. Joe McDermott said, "Our state is facing historic jobless numbers. This is a very scary time for Washington families, no matter who they are made up of. Now more than ever, every family must have the same protections under the law.
Sen. Ed Murray, the measure's chief sponsor, said, "People who wish that the tens of thousands of Gay and Lesbian families in Washington did not exist will still be able to wish that we did not exist under this bill ... But this bill does recognize the reality of too many families denied the ability to make decisions as a family at the very times when they need to be together the most."
The bill is overdue. And there will be more work to be done. But Washington is ready to be a leader on the issue of marriage equality.