Washington Passes Referendum Ensuring Domestic Partners Have Rights

“The people of Washington have rejected a mean-spirited attempt to rob some citizens of the protections that others receive,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese

WASHINGTON- Today the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, applauded voters in Washington for passing Referendum 71, approving the state’s domestic partnership law and preserving legal rights and benefits for thousands of families. The domestic partnership law that the voters upheld provides registered same-sex and senior domestic partners with the same legal protections, benefits, and obligations that marriage provides under state law. The initiative passed by a margin of 52.5 to 47.5.

“The people of Washington have rejected a mean-spirited attempt to rob some citizens of the protections that others receive. The passage of Referendum 71 assures that state-registered domestic partners will have the same financial and personal security under state law as their neighbors.” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Although only marriage is truly equal, this referendum provides tangible protections that are more important than ever in these uncertain economic times,” he added.

The bill to expand domestic partner benefits was passed in May 2009 and signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire. The measure was placed on the ballot after opponents collected enough signatures to qualify for a referendum.

HRC played an important role in the passage of Referendum 71:

o Made more than $90,000 in monetary and in-kind contributions to the efforts to approve Referendum 71 and protect domestic partnership benefits.

o $78,500 in monetary contributions to the Approve 71 campaign, including more than $67,000 raised from hundreds of individual donors to the HRC Approve 71 PAC;

o More than $15,000 in in-kind contributions to the Approve 71 campaign.

o Deployed a field organizer to work full time with Washington Families Standing Together Approve Referendum 71 from early September through Election Day.

o Coordinated phone banks several evenings per week in Seattle, staffed by HRC volunteers, to call Washington voters, generating thousands of telephone calls and conversations.

o Organized nearly 100 HRC local steering committee members and other HRC volunteers to assist with get-out-the-vote efforts.

o Mobilized more than 30,000 HRC members and supporters via special online action alerts and telephone calls to get them involved in the referendum efforts.

Fourteen states plus Washington, D.C. have laws providing at least some form of state-level relationship recognition for same-sex couples. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire (law to take effect January 1, 2010) recognize marriage for same-sex couples under state law. Five states—California, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada—plus Washington, D.C. provide same-sex couples with access to the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Hawaii, Colorado and Wisconsin provide same-sex couples with limited rights and benefits. New York and Washington, D.C. recognize marriages by same-sex couples validly entered into outside of the jurisdiction. California recognized marriage by same-sex couples between June and November of 2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which purports to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality. The Proposition 8 vote has been challenged in federal court; a decision is not expected any time soon.

Because of the discriminatory “Defense of Marriage Act,” same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state, even if they are married.

To learn more about state by state legislation visit: www.hrc.org/state_laws.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.