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Domestic Partnership or Civil Union: "Everything but Marriage" Considered by States like Washington

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By Admin on January 28, 2009 3:51 PM

Washington state legislators have put forth a bill to extend the state's domestic partnership benefits. The bill attempts to complete the inclusion of domestic partners everywhere Washington law addresses married people.

The Seattle Times reports that state Senator Ed Murray and Representative Jamie Pedersen are among those sponsoring the legislation. Additions to existing benefits would include the right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner, the right to wages and benefits when a domestic partner is injured or killed, unemployment and disability insurance benefits, workers' compensation coverage, insurance related rights, adoption, child custody and child support rights, and business succession rights.

Under the legislation, "for all purposes under state law, state registered domestic partners shall be treated the same as married spouses."

According to Lambda Legal, this would add Washington to the list of 5 states giving same sex partners the benefits and responsibilities associated with marriage under the legal name of either domestic partnership or civil union. The list currently includes California, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont. More states recognize domestic partnerships, but grant them fewer rights. Massachusetts and Connecticut currently recognize same sex marriage rights.

California previously recognized gay marriages, but Proposition 8 in last year's election changed California's constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The legality of Prop 8 remains the subject of court battle. In New Jersey, a legislative commission recently recommended that the state grant full marriage rights instead of the civil unions under current New Jersey law.

In Hawaii, a majority in the state's House of Representatives reportedly supports legislation that would create civil unions. Similarly, New Mexico's legislature will reportedly be considering legislation to grant the legal rights and obligations of marriage to domestic partners.

Meanwhile, advocates for same sex relationship rights in Utah suffered a setback. As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, a bill was killed in committee which would have allowed financial beneficiaries (including same sex partners) beyond spouses, parents and children the right to sue over someone's wrongful death.

In states like Hawaii and New Mexico, legislation extending full marriage-like rights has stalled or met narrow defeat in the past. With many changed legislatures following the 2008 election, and the issue to remain hot button, the next year could bring changes to same sex relationship rights in many states.