WA Governor Chris Gregoire Signs Everything-But-Marriage into Law

Note 7/26/09: I noticed that this post got linked to at a message board as proof that the battle for equality is finished in Washington. I want to stress that this blogger disagrees completely with that opinion. As I said in a previous post re: the Washington law, according to the US Supreme Court, ‘Separate but Equal’ is inherently unequal. This law is a step, not the final destination. Thanks for stopping by, and please check out the rest of my awesome better-than-anybody-else blog!

Encouraging news today from the Seattle Times:

Surrounded by about 300 people — most of them gay and lesbians couples and their children — Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday signed legislation giving registered same-sex domestic partners all the rights and benefits that Washington now offers married couples.

The law will take effect on July 26 unless opponents seeking to repeal it can successfully collect enough signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot. A network of conservative and religious organizations, led by the Faith and Freedom Foundation, plans to begin immediately collecting signatures to repeal the measure under Referendum 71.

They have until July 25 to collect 120,577. If they are successful, the law would be suspended until voters decide the referendum. Several gay-rights advocates have established a campaign called Decline 2 Sign, to raised money in an attempt to defeat the measure.

The Monday morning bill signing by Gregoire at the Montlake Community Center was a festive event, marking a significant milestone for the state’s same-sex couples. It expands on previous domestic partnership laws by adding such partnerships to all remaining areas of state law that now only address married couples.

Governor Gregoire approves the domestic partner law
Governor Gregoire approves the domestic partner law

The measure also extends coverage to unmarried heterosexual couples over the age of 62.

As of Monday, there were 5,395 registered domestic partners, representing every county in the state.

The signing came almost three years after the state Supreme Court ruled against 11 gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry in Washington and upheld the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that limits marriage to one man and one woman.

Charlene Strong, a Seattle woman who was instrumental in the initial push for changes in the law after her partner drowned in the flooded basement of their Madison Valley home, said while she is thrilled with the advancements, she’s eager for the next step: reversal of DOMA.

“It is important for us to sit and talk to those who oppose us,” Strong said. “We need them to hear us, to meet our families… .”They speak from a place of fear. We need them to speak from a place of understanding.”

I agree with Ms. Strong. This is a big step, but it isn’t the last step. For today, congratulations to the folks in Washington. Their hard work will pay off for all of us.

(Incidentally, check out the comments in the article. They hit all the talking points in the first 20 minutes on this one.)