The Agenda

Gay Washington legislators celebrate expanded partnership rights

As Washington state’s newly passed domestic partnership rights bill goes to Gov. Christine Gregoire’s desk, openly gay members of the legislature are praising the law’s impact on gay couples.

“There has been a profound shift in public understanding. It’s important for us to do as much as we can to protect our families,” said Rep. Jamie Pedersen (right), a member of the Legislature’s unofficial gay caucus and the bill’s sponsor.

Newly appointed state representative Marko Liias contended that the bill was not a direct precursor to gay marriage, as the bill’s opponents have stated.

“I think it’s just a way to distract us from the specific issue we have this year. This bill is not about marriage. It’s about financial security,” Liias said. “People are excited that there is another voice for gay and lesbian families. It made me feel happy and proud of being here.”

However, Pedersen hopes that marriage equality will be possible in the near future for his state.

“We’ve been very clear since we announced our plans last year that our ultimate goal is marriage,” said Pedersen. “There’s some chance — depending on how things go in November — that we could have a real conversation next year.”

Out state Sen. Ed Murray added that the rancor during the debate on the Senate floor was markedly diminished from the high emotions expressed during the passage of the initial domestic partnership bill.

“To paraphrase Bill Clinton, I think (Republicans) realized ‘That dog don’t hunt,’ ” Murray said. “I think Republicans know that when they come out strongly against this, it costs them at the polls with moderate urban Republicans.”