THE SIGNING! Governor Gregoire signs Domestic Partnership Expansion bill into law
THE SIGNING! Governor Gregoire signs Domestic Partnership Expansion bill into law
by Nick Ardizzone - 12 SGN Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Governor Gregoire signed House bill 3104, the Domestic Partnership Expansion bill, into law at a ceremony in Olympia. The bill expands the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners and grants some of the protections afforded to married couples.

"Lesbian and Gay families deserve equal rights - not more rights, equal rights," Senator Ed Murray wrote in a press release celebrating the signing. "Just a couple of years ago, financial, legal and discrimination protections for same-sex couples was a contentious issue. That has changed. We saw a broad willingness to move forward this year, and the with the governor's signature today, Washington takes another significant step forward."

On Thursday, the Seattle Gay News spoke with Representative Jamie Pedersen and Senator Joe McDermott, who largely echoed the enthusiasm that surrounded the capitol at the time of the bill's passage into law.

"This is a really big and important step on the way to equal treatment for the families of same-sex couples and senior citizen couples who are registered as domestic partners," Pedersen said, adding that he felt the bill's movement through the House and Senate was "a really important step in educating our members down here, and in the general public, about the harm that our families experience by not having access to civil marriage."

The powerful testimony from members of the GLBT community stirred tremendous support from the legislature, Pedersen said. "What was just stunning about it was to look at the array of legislators who are standing behind their Gay colleagues & unfortunately, we don't have any open Lesbians in the legislature. I'm guessing there were probably 40 people who took their time to come and stand with us for a bill signing - that's pretty unusual; usually bill signings are down in the Governor's conference room and the bill's sponsor might or might not be there, and almost no one else comes. & But the sense of ownership that people have come to have over this issue and over correcting this injustice, I think, bodes very well for our prospects in the future."

McDermott, while unmistakably proud of the progress, was more reserved. "It doesn't surprise me that people want to celebrate another step toward full equality, and I'm glad that Governor Gregoire is such a partner in that effort," he said. "While [domestic partnerships] still lack over half the rights married couples enjoy, we're making significant progress for same-sex couples."

"As we wait for the bill to take effect, we should be happy with our accomplishments, but by all means there's more work to be done," he said.

Pedersen put the bill's passage into perspective by reflecting on how far the civil rights movement has come. "We have a series of other issues, such as surrogacy and parenting, and adoption, where we are not yet treated with equal dignity. There's more to do, but you have to look at what we saw yesterday and think how remarkable it is that less than two years ago we had literally nothing from the state. No recognition, no rights, and for us to have come to a place where we have near supermajorites in both houses voting in favor of recognizing our families, and we have now close to 200 rights and responsibilities given to us, that's a very exciting development."

McDermott and Pedersen agreed that now was no time for complacency. "The work goes on constantly," Pedersen said. "We're already starting to talk with people about what our steps will be for next year, and of course the most important work of the next seven and-a-half months is going to be that we continue to build a majority of supporters down here in the legislature, and that we re-elect the Governor."

"There's very little question that the biggest threat to our continued progress would be the election of Dino Rossi."

Pedersen urged supporters of civil rights to mobilize, get politically active, and vote. "In a close election, the difference between a 60% turnout and a 62% turnout in King County will absolutely swing the election," he explained. "Unfortunately, a large number of our friends and neighbors don't even bother" to vote.

"We need to let people know how much is at stake for our community in this election," he said.

Although there are still many battles to fight on the road to equality, Pedersen did take time out Tuesday night to bask in the recent glory. "I'm a little under the weather, so after I sent [my partner] Eric and our son, Tryg, home, I did go out to dinner with a few other folks from here and we raised a toast to the success."