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Jamie Pedersen introduces relationship recognition bill
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Jamie Pedersen introduces relationship recognition bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43) has introduced legislation to make it easier for same-sex couples married in another state to gain legal recognition for their relationship in Washington.

HB 2482 would allow out-of-state marriages to be recognized as domestic partnerships under Washington state law. The bill says

A legal union of two persons of the same sex that was validly formed in another jurisdiction, and that is substantially equivalent to a domestic partnership under this chapter, shall be recognized as a valid domestic partnership in this state and shall be treated the same as a domestic partnership registered in this state regardless of whether it bears the name domestic partnership.

Pedersen's bill would revise laws already on the books regulating this state's recognition of same-sex relationships formed in other states.

"In 2008 we passed the first - or one of the first - recognition statutes," Pedersen explained to SGN. "In other words, recognized relationships in other jurisdictions, like civil unions or domestic partnerships, would be treated as domestic partnerships here and given the same legal effect."

The problem Pedersen wants to correct is that same-sex marriages - as opposed to civil unions or domestic partnerships - are exempted from recognition.

"At that time we exempted marriages," Pedersen explained. "That was a political decision as much as anything. We didn't want it to seem like we were undermining the state DOMA. And anyway, Massachusetts was the only state that had marriage at that time."

"Since then the world has changed," Pedersen continued. "There are now seven states that have marriage. We've gone from a couple of thousand married couples to tens of thousands of couples. So it becomes statistically much more likely that married couples will come here and need to have their relationship recognized in some way."

Under Washington state's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) even legal same-sex marriages concluded out-of-state would be totally disregarded unless the legislature passes HB 2482.

"Now there's another complication," Pedersen added. "Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire had civil unions, and then they passed marriage. And they decided that they would automatically make the Transition from civil union to marriage. So if you had a civil union before, then after a certain date, you're married."

"Now that means if you come to Washington state before that date, then you're recognized," Pedersen says, "but if you come after that date you're not. That's not fair and it's not good public policy."

Pedersen cautioned that his bill does not recognize out-of-state same sex marriages as marriages, and he doesn't want it to be seen as a direct challenge to DOMA.

"Maybe I'm too much of a Pollyanna, but I hope people will view this as just a cleanup of the existing statute," he said. "It's not related to DOMA. It doesn't amend the section on what constitutes a marriage. It's just another small move toward equality for all families."

"The leadership has to be very careful," Pedersen explained. "You have to budget how many controversial things you bring up for debate in one session."

"There's only one issue for the legislature right now - the budget," he continued, referring to the state's $2.6 billion revenue shortfall. "You can't schedule eight hours of floor time for debate on other issues, otherwise nothing will get done."

Asked if he thought the bill will pass this session, Pedersen answered, "I'm confident it will get out of my [Judiciary] committee, no problem. I'm confident it will pass the House."

"I've been talking with Sen. Murray about the Senate," he added, "but I can't say for certain it will get through the Senate. Half the legislation we send over there dies because the Senate runs out of time."

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