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Washington Senate passes domestic partnership bill

[JURIST] The Washington State Senate [official website] passed a domestic partnership bill (SB 5336) [PDF text; legislative history] Thursday which would establish a domestic partner registry, giving same-sex couples enhanced rights including inheritance, hospital visitation, and the power to authorize medical procedures. The bill, sponsored by openly gay Sen. Ed Murray (D) [official website] passed by a vote of 28-19, defeating a proposed amendment [PDF text] by Senator Don Benton (R) [official website] that would have added a referendum clause. Benton and others who voted against the bill said it was an attempt to undermine traditional marriage [press release]. The bill now moves to the house as House Bill 1351 [PDF text; legislative history]. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire [official website] is expected to sign the measure if it passes.

Last year Washington passed a landmark gay civil rights act [JURIST report] sponsored by Murray, which rewrote Washington's Civil Rights Act to include the phrase "sexual orientation" among the classes of people protected from discrimination in housing, lending, and employment. Last week the state determined that a heterosexual woman could not use that law to secure health care benefits for her male partner [JURIST report] because a federal law on the topic trumps it. AP has more.

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