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Voters affirming domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian families
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Voters affirming domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian families

Washington may be first state in nation to support domestic partnership by popular vote SEATTLE - Washington voters today appear to be approving Referendum 71, upholding a state law that provides important legal protections for gays and lesbians and seniors in registered domestic partnerships.

Nearly all of the state's voters now vote by mail and ballots only need to be postmarked by Election Day, not counted by Election Day, so many ballots won't actually be counted until Wednesday or Thursday. In King County, where 'Approve' is winning by a two-to-one margin, fewer than half the ballots have been counted, and the campaign estimates that the ballots that remain to be counted in King County will account for over 30 percent of the votes remaining to be counted statewide.

"Based on the results we saw tonight, we will be making history in moving forward toward full equality for gay and lesbian Washingtonians and their families," said Anne Levinson, Chair of the Approve 71 campaign. "Voters across the state listened to the personal stories of gay and lesbian families, and the challenges they face, and, based on the returns so far, they are sending a resounding message - we want to see all families treated equally under the law."

"We believe the end result of this election will be a win not just for the couples and families, but for all Washingtonians who believe in values of fairness and equality," Levinson continued. "It was profoundly wrong for some to try to eliminate the rights of others."

"We are all harmed when any of us is treated differently under the law. We hope this puts an end to the divisive and mean spirited attacks by extremist groups against gay and lesbian Washingtonians and that we can all work together on the real problems confronting all families - gay and non-gay alike."

The Approve 71 campaign was supported by a broad statewide coalition and received more than 500 endorsements, including faith-based groups and organizations representing communities of color, seniors, education, health care and public safety; clergy of many denominations; labor; large employers such as Microsoft, Google, Starbucks, Boeing; small businesses; civic groups, organizations that care for families, immigrant populations and children, who all took a stand in support of their friends, neighbors and co-workers.

"This was one of the shortest statewide ballot campaigns in Washington. We had only weeks between certification and the first ballots going out. If these trends continue, this will be only the sixth referendum approved in the history of our state," said Josh Friedes, Approve 71 Campaign Manager. "To have these kinds of numbers in an off-year election where those who vote tend to be older and more conservative is a real testament to the broad support for Washington's gay and lesbian families."

Friedes and Levinson both noted that because of Referendum 71 - which Protect Marriage Washington, the Family Policy Institute, the National Organization for Marriage and others fought to force on the ballot -Washingtonians now have a greater understanding of the challenges faced by gay and lesbian families and the legal protections they lacked.

"Were it not for the referendum, the law would have just quietly gone into effect in July. By forcing the referendum, those groups have likely done quite a lot to advance the cause of full equality for lesbian and gay families in Washington state," Levinson said.

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