WA voters will have final say on gay partnership benefits Tuesday

Washington State SealWashington state‘s slow-but-steady approach to increasing rights and benefits to gay and lesbian couples hit its first snag just as the three-year process appeared to be complete.

After lawmakers passed the state’s first domestic partnership bill in 2007, and then expanded it a year later, they completed the package with the so-called “everything but marriage” bill that was signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year.

On Tuesday, voters get the final say on whether they think lawmakers overstepped their bounds.

Referendum 71 asks voters to “approve” or “reject” the final expansion to the state’s domestic partnership law, which grants registered domestic partners additional state-granted rights currently given only to married couples. Under state law, heterosexual seniors also can register as domestic partners.

Opponents of the law say R-71 is a vote on same-sex marriage.

Supporters of gay rights say that the marriage debate is for another day, but that in the meantime, same-sex couples need additional legal protections and rights.

The expanded law adds benefits including the right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner, and rights related to adoption, child custody and child support.

The law was supposed to take effect July 26, but now will take effect only if approved by voters.

Full story, AP via the Seattle Times.

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