In 1998, Washington State’s legislature passed a Defense of Marriage Act restricting marriage to one man and one woman. In 2005, the State Supreme Court ruled against marriage equality for same-sex couples and upheld DOMA.
Equality-minded legislators turned to a different strategy to begin to correct the inequalities that same-sex couples and families face. They passed a domestic partnership bill that took effect in July 2007. In 2008 the legislature added an additional 160 of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to domestic partnerships. And in 2009, the legislature expanded domestic partnerships once again in the “everything but marriage” bill, which provides the same state rights, responsibilities, and obligations as married spouses, while specifying that domestic partnerships are not marriages.
Governor Christine Gregoire signed the expanded domestic partnership bill into law on May 18, 2009. However, the law did not go into effect as scheduled because of Referendum 71, an attempt to overturn the law. Referendum 71 qualified for the November 2009 ballot and asked voters to approve or reject the law that the legislature passed. Washington State voters made history by approving Referendum 71 by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent, becoming the first state to vote in favor of equality.
There is more work to be done to protect the domestic partnership rights we have gained and to work toward full equality. Equal Rights Washington is committed to educating the public and advocating for equality for all of Washington’s families.