Politics & Government

Washington State braces for battle over same-sex rights

OLYMPIA, WAash. — A political fight over the rights of same-sex couples is drawing nearer in Washington State.

Backers of Referendum 71, who want to overturn a new state same-sex partnership law, have made an appointment to file signatures with state elections officials Saturday afternoon.

Saturday is the deadline to collect 120,577 valid voter signatures and qualify for the Nov. 3 state ballot.

Protect Marriage Washington is the primary backer of R-71. Gary Randall of the allied Faith and Freedom Network said by e-mail: “We are gathering and counting signatures. I think we are making good progress.”

Protect Marriage has raised just more than $20,000 for a campaign that so far has been waged mostly through churches. Randall said the group is not anti-gay but pro-marriage. The group wants voters to reject Senate Bill 5688, the "everything but marriage" legislation that passed this year and adds about 250 rights of marriage for registered same-sex partners in Washington.

Defenders of the new state law, who call themselves Washington Families Standing Together, say they are ready to defend the third round of rights lawmakers added since creating the partners registry in 2007.

“It wouldn't undo the first two years” of rights approved by state lawmakers, Washington Families spokesman Josh Friedes said. “But it would be devastating to families protected under the domestic partnership law. It would deny registered domestic partners essential protections that other families take for granted. What we are talking about are things like pension rights and family medical leave, a whole host of benefits for public sector employees, particularly important to first-responders, firefighters and paramedics.”

The first two domestic partner laws added a total of about 200 rights, including rights to visit partners in the hospital and rights dealing with end-of-life and property-transfer issues. But none of the laws addresses the more than 1,100 federal rights under tax codes, federal pensions, private-sector pensions and other laws that state legislation cannot affect, Friedes said.

The domestic partners law giving rights to same-sex couples also gives them to opposite-sex couples with one person age 62 or older.

Read the full story at theolympian.com