Washington voters to decide gay partnership rights on Tuesday

Approve R-71On Tuesday, voters will “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.

Referendum 71 gives voters the final decision over a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year.

The so called “everything but marriage” law would grant gay couples 1,100 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.

“For all purposes under state law,” the bill said, “state-registered domestic partners shall be treated the same as married spouses.”

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.

There has been confusion over what a yes vote means: Protect Marriage Washington put Referendum 71 on the ballot, but it wants voters to reject the measure. Referendum 71 asks voters to “approve” or “reject” the expansion to the state’s domestic partnership law.

In Maine, in another referendum on the ballot Tuesday, voters will determine the fate of a same-sex marriage bill passed by the state Legislature in May.

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