[JURIST] Washington voters have narrowly approved Referendum 71 (R-71) [text, PDF], expanding the state's domestic partnership law, according to results Thursday. R-71 was a ballot measure that asked Washington residents to decide the fate of the state's 2009 domestic partnership law [materials; JURIST report], which has been nicknamed the "everything but marriage law," as it affords domestic partners all rights enjoyed by married couples under Washington state law. Under R-71, same-sex partners registered with the state will receive some 250 new rights [Olympian report] and all of the approximately 425 state rights afforded to married couples, including the rights to inherit a partner's public pension and to take leave to care for a sick or injured partner. The legislation was signed in May by the governor and originally set to take effect on July 26, but its implementation was put on hold pending the results of the referendum. Official results [materials] report that the measure was approved by 52.56 percent and rejected by 47.44 percent of voters, but it only carried nine of the state's 39 counties.
R-71 builds on the earlier expansion of domestic partnership rights by lawmakers in 2007 and 2008. The 2007 domestic partnership law [text, PDF; JURIST report] allowed same-sex couples over the age of 18 living together to register with the state's domestic partnership registry. Registered same-sex couples were afforded hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, and the right to authorize medical decisions for one's partner. In 2008, lawmakers expanded the previous year's law, giving domestic partners legal standing under laws covering probate and trusts, community property, and guardianship.