[JURIST] The Washington State House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday voted 62-35 to approve a bill [text, PDF; materials] granting same-sex couples the same rights and benefits of married couples in the state. The law effectively construes statutory gender specific terms such as "husband" and "wife" to be gender neutral, making them applicable to individuals in same-sex domestic partnerships, but stops short of recognizing the partnerships as marriages. The bill grants [Seattle Times report] same-sex couples rights equal to that of married couples in areas such as labor and employment, legal process, insurance rights, and others. It was passed by the Washington State Senate [official website] in March by a vote of 30-18. Despite opposition that criticizes [Spokesman Review report] the law as being detrimental to marriage, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire [official website] has said she will sign the bill into law.
In January 2006, Gregoire signed [JURIST report] into law a gay civil rights act [HB 2661 text, PDF] that expanded the Washington Civil Rights Act to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in housing, lending, and employment. That law made Washington the 17th state in the nation to have an anti-discrimination law that covered sexual orientation. In April 2007, Gregoire signed domestic partnership legislation [text, PDF; JURIST report] that guaranteed gay and lesbian couples some of the legal rights that previously were afforded only to husband and wife including hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, and the ability to authorize medical decisions for their partner. The present law is seen b some as completing the grant of rights that the previous legislation had begun.