Same-sex marriage (SSM) & domestic partnerships
Washington state: 2009 referendum
repeal domestic partnership law
currently being edited
Review: Domestic partnerships in Washington state:
|2007: A system of domestic partnerships was created; same-sex
couples were able to register and receive a few of the hundreds of state rights enjoyed by all
married opposite-sex couples. Unmarried heterosexual couples where one spouse
is 62 years-of-age or older could also register.|
|2008: The Legislature gave additional rights
and responsibilities to domestic partners. |
|2009-MAY. Senate Bill SB 5688 was signed into law.
1 It was commonly
referred to as the "everything but marriage" bill. It specified that:
"... for all purposes under state law, state registered domestic
partners shall be treated the same as married spouses. ... The provisions of
this act shall be liberally construed to achieve equal treatment, to the extent
not in conflict with federal law, of state registered domestic partners and
married spouses. 2
According to the final bill report prepared by
"non-partisan legislative staff:"
"The legislation amended statutes related to
property; estate planning; taxes; court process; service to indigent veterans
and other public assistance; conflicts of interest for public officials; and
Registered domestic partners are still denied all of the approximately 1,150
rights and privileges that are automatically granted by the federal government to opposite-sex married
couples. They are still unable to marry in Washington state. However, if the law
were implemented, they will enjoy the same state rights and responsibilities as married couples
receive, with the exception of one of
the most important rights: to be able
to marry the person that they love and to whom they are committed. 2
Referendum 71 launched:
Many religious and social conservatives were distressed at SB 5688
bill. Although it does not allow same-sex couples to marry, it would give them
all of the state benefits and obligations equivalent to marriage.
A campaign coalition called Protect Marriage Washington was organized
to repeal the bill via a voter referendum. This would prevent loving,
committed domestic partners from receiving dozens of additional rights and privileges as
specified by the bill.
In addition to the Roman Catholic group Knights of Columbus,
approximately 20 fundamentalist and other evangelical Christian pastors and
groups have endorsed the referendum, along with eight state legislators and community
leaders, and two extreme conservative political parties: the American Heritage Party of Washington
and the Constitution Party of Washington State.
No mainline or liberal Christian groups or leaders have endorsed the
referendum. The list of endorsers also does not appear to include Jewish or
Muslim groups or individuals. There are also no endorsements from
representatives of other religions. It is essentially a battle between
conservative Christians against gay positive and civil liberty groups and
The Washington Values Alliance (WAVA) prepared a petition and
collected signatures. In order to have the referendum added to the 2009-NOV-03 statewide ballot, a
minimum of 120,577 voter signatures was required. Because there are inevitably
some invalid and duplicated signatures, the Washington Secretary of State
recommends that sponsors collect at least 150,000 signatures.
On 2009-JUL-25, with two hours to spare, the sponsors turned in what they
estimated to be at least 138,000 signatures. Filing these signatures
automatically suspended the implementation of Senate Bill 5688 that had been
scheduled to take effect on AUG-02. The law will be placed
on hold while a complete signature check is performed. If 120,577 or more valid
signatures are found, the referendum will be placed on the November ballot. If
insufficient signatures were collected, the Senate Bill will be activated. The
process could take a week or more. 3
On 2009-JUL-31, the Secretary of State's office
reported that 137,689 signatures had actually been submitted; this is about 14%
more than the absolute minimum necessary. The office had scrutinized 5,646
signatures to that date, and found an error rate of 11.34%. If this rate
continues, the referendum will be authorized.
Also on JUL-31, organizers of Referendum 71
obtained a court order blocking the release of the names on the petitions.
Knights of Columbus endorse Referendum 71:
Council 1379 of the Knights of Columbus -- a Roman Catholic spiritual group
for men -- endorsed the referendum.
Their resolution states:
"Whereas, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2357) states, that
'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,' and 'contrary to the natural
law.' 'Under no circumstances can they be approved.'
Whereas, recognizing its many social benefits, society has long licensed
marriage between husband and wife, and has granted such unions privileges and
Whereas, in passing SB 5688 last month, the legislature in Olympia states
repeatedly that 'marriage shall apply equally to state registered domestic
partnerships.' The legislature would thus put the sin against nature on an equal
footing legally with the venerable and sacred institution of marriage between
one man and one woman.
Whereas, in Anderson, et. al. v. State of Washington (2006) the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA) was upheld by a 5-4 margin in the Washington State Supreme
Whereas, three members of that majority are expected to defect after final
enactment of SB 5688. Under this widely expected sequence of events, the State
Supreme Court would soon overturn DOMA, and would mandate the issuing of
marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Whereas, the Knights of Columbus nationally and locally are duty bound to defend
traditional marriage in American society and culture,
Therefore, be it resolved: Council 1379 of the Knights of Columbus endorses
Referendum 71, filed in Olympia on May 4, 2009, in order to overturn SB 5688."
There are two interesting aspects to this resolution:
|Their citation of section 2357 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
appears to indicate that the Knights reject the concept of separation of |
church and state and favor the state adopting Roman Catholic beliefs.
|They speculate that if SB 5688 is implemented, three judges of the
Washington State Supreme Court would reverse their stance on the
constitutionality of the state's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This would
imply that the 5 to 4 ruling of the court in favor of
constitutionality during 2006 would become a 7 to 2 ruling against
constitutionality if a similar court case were to be presented to them.|
This seems like an unlikely scenario. In 2006, they ruled that the legislature
had the authority to discriminate against same-sex couples in the marriage
law. Since bill SB 5688 continues this discrimination, there is no obvious
reason for the court to reverse its ruling. We have asked the Knights of
Columbus to clarify their assertion.
Appearance of Referendum 71 on the ballot:
If approved, the ballot text would be:
Statement of Subject: The legislature passed Engrossed Second
Substitute Senate Bill 5688 concerning rights and responsibilities of
state-registered domestic partners [and voters have filed a sufficient
referendum petition on this bill].
Concise Description: This bill would expand the rights,
responsibilities, and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and
senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses,
except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.
Should this bill be:
Ballot Measure Summary
Same-sex couples, or any couple that includes one person age sixty-two or
older, may register as a domestic partnership with the state. Registered
domestic partnerships are not marriages, and marriage is prohibited except
between one man and one woman. This bill would expand the rights,
responsibilities, and obligations of registered domestic partners and
their families to include all rights, responsibilities, and obligations
granted by or imposed by state law on married couples and their families.
Support for same-sex marriage and full domestic partnerships:
References used in this essay:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Text of "Substitute Senate Bill 5688,"
SB 5688 - 2009-10:
Expanding the rights and responsibilities of
state registered domestic partners." Washington State Legislature, at:
- "Final Bill Report: E2SSB 5688," at:
- David Ammons, "R-71 backers bring in signature petitions," Washington
Secretary of State, 2009-JUL-25, at:
- "Judge Blocks Release of Referendum 71 Signees," The Chronicle,
- "Knights of Columbus endorse Ref. 71," Protect Marriage Washington,
- "Proposed Referendum Measures - 2009," Washington Secretary of State, at:
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-JUL-29
Latest update: 2009-AUG-02
Author: B.A. Robinson