Contact Information

  • Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Gov. Gregoire signs legislation to expand rights to domestic partners

For Immediate Release: May 18, 2009

SEATTLE – At a ceremony in Seattle today, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5688, which ensures that under state law state-registered domestic partners are treated the same as married spouses.

“Today we are strengthening Washington by strengthening families,” Gregoire said. “From the first bill I signed in 2007 to today’s bills, we have proudly made immeasurable strides on behalf of LGBT individuals and families. This represents the culmination of incredible work to treat all Washingtonians equally.”

In 2007, Substitute Senate Bill 5336 created the state domestic partnership registry. The legislation allows individuals to enter into a state domestic partnership if they meet established criteria. Some of the powers and rights of spouses were granted to domestic partnerships in that legislation.

The Legislature passed, and Gregoire signed, House Bill 3104 in 2008, which added additional rights and responsibilities relating to issues such as dissolutions, community property, estate planning, taxes, court process, conflicts of interest for public officials and guardianships.

“Many brave families have come forward to share their lives, their struggles and their moments of joy – hard-working men and women who are in committed relationships, raising children, attending their places of worship, and volunteering in their communities,” Gregoire said. “After meeting these families, people have come to know that lesbian and gay families are no different than their own. And what has naturally followed is the unsettling notion that despite the sameness of straight couples and gay and lesbian couples, there are, in fact, legal barriers that prevent the same treatment.”

This new legislation requires state agencies to ensure that all privileges, immunities, rights, benefits, or responsibilities granted to married individuals are granted to an individual who is or was in a state registered domestic partnership.

“There can be no question that the landscape of equality for gay and lesbian families is changing, here and across the nation,” said Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle), who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “Today, eleven years after our state established the intolerance of DOMA into law, Washington law will finally treat gay and lesbian families the same as married couples. Recently, Iowa and Vermont have legalized full marriage equality. Of course, marriage equality is the final goal for gay and lesbian families here in Washington too. We will pursue full equality, but with our full but cautious commitment.”

“This bill is about protecting families – mine and over 5,300 others in 278 cities and towns across Washington state,” said Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), who sponsored the bill in the House. “Making sure that all Washington families enjoy the full and equal protection of the law strengthens our whole community.”

Gregoire also signed House Bill 1445, which permits domestic partners to receive the survivor and death benefits available to spouses from the Washington State Patrol Retirement System and House Bill 1616 to provide qualified domestic partners the same pension and Public Employees’ Benefits Board reimbursement benefits available to spouses of members of Law Enforcement Officers' and Fire Fighters' Retirement System Plan 2. These include retirement and disability survivor benefits, military service credit benefits, and withdrawal and annuity benefits paid upon a member’s death.