Voters approved domestic partner benefits measure in Washington state

Washington R-71In a victory for gay rights supporters, voters in Washington state have approved Referendum 71, a measure to expand the state’s domestic partnership law.

The results are a disappointment to religious conservatives, who had mounted an aggressive campaign against conferring additional benefits on committed gay couples and some senior couples.

The so called “everything but marriage” law will grant gay couples more than 200 additional rights currently reserved for married spouses, including ensuring extended work leave for people with critically ill partners and preserving pension benefits for the surviving partner in the event of the other’s death.

At last count, the measure had a narrow, but firm lead with 51.12% of voters in favor of the expanded domestic partner benefits, 48.88% opposed, and the trend is expected to hold once all the votes are tabulated.

According to the Seattle Times: “Referendum 71 passed overwhelmingly in King County and was being voted up throughout the Puget Sound region. Voters in Eastern Washington, meanwhile, were rejecting the measure by wide margins — including in Spokane County.”

In King County (Seattle), where more than 30 percent of the state’s voters reside, yes votes were running 66 percent.

The expanded domestic partnership benefits bill was signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year, but in Washington state, bills approved by the Legislature can be put to a public vote if enough signatures are gathered, allowing for a “people’s veto.”

Protect Marriage Washington narrowly met the threshold of more than 120,000 valid signatures in early September, placing the measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Passage of the referendum would mean that Senate Bill 5688 could be enacted in about a month, once the election is certified. The bill extends marriage-like benefits not only to same-sex couples but also to unmarried heterosexual couples where one partner is at least 62.

Other Election Results:

In other contests Tuesday, Maine voters on Tuesday rejected a law allowing gay marriage, a closely fought referendum on the one year anniversary of a similar outcome in California.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, voters overwhelmingly supported upholding the city’s anti-discrimination law that extends protection to LGBT individuals.

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