Wash. gov. signs DP law
by Lisa Keen
Legal recognition of same-sex relationships continues to grow. Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire (D) signed a domestic partnership law Saturday, April 21, making Washington the seventh state in the nation, plus the District of Columbia, to establish some kind of legal recognition for same-sex couples.
Oregon is on its heels to become the eighth. Its House passed a domestic partnership bill last week and a Senate committee was scheduled to hold a public hearing and perhaps a vote on the measure on Wednesday, April 25.
Meanwhile, in New York state, Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer has vowed to introduce legislation there for recognition of same-sex marriages.
Currently, only Massachusetts issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Three states – Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey – issue civil union licenses. California issues domestic partnership recognition, and Hawaii has, since 1997, registered couples as reciprocal beneficiaries. The Washington law goes into effect in July, making it the second state to establish domestic partnerships.
Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, said domestic partnerships such as in California and Washington are an important "first step" toward marriage equality. But he said both contain aspects that are "diminishing" of their meaning to gay couples.
Both, he noted, have very limited benefits – hospital visitation, authorizing autopsies, and inheritance rights when there is no will. Both also allow seniors to register as domestic partnerships, conveying an impression that the law is not so much to recognize same-sex couples as to handle some legal issues for pairs of people who live together and share expenses.
"It's the right wing's way of saying, 'This is not about gays; we're not legitimating gay intimate relationships,'" said Wolfson. "This is not to say others should not be recognized, but it's one of the ways in which [the legislation] is intended as diminishing the rights of gay couples."
In New York, Spitzer recently came under fire for omitting same-sex marriage legislation in recent speeches listing legislation that he considers a priority. The legislature adjourns in late June, and on Friday, April 21, Spitzer said he would soon introduce same-sex marriage legislation as promised.
In New Jersey, the state released statistics this month indicating that 575 same-sex couples have recorded civil unions in that state since the law went into effect February 19.