UPDATE: WA Legislature OKs Out-Of-State Same-Sex Unions
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Same-sex couples married elsewhere would be granted the same legal rights and protections in Washington state as domestic partners under a bill headed to the governor's desk after clearing its last legislative hurdle Wednesday. The measure passed the Senate on a 28-19 vote.
Gay marriage remains illegal in Washington state. But under this bill, same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships performed and recognized elsewhere would be eligible for the rights granted to domestic partnerships in Washington. In the past half-decade, lawmakers here have approved hundreds of rights and responsibilities for domestic partnerships, putting them on almost equal footing with marriage.
Currently, five states, the District of Columbia and Canada allow same-sex marriages. Washington becomes the fourth state to approve this type of bill, following Rhode Island, New York and Maryland, according to Senate staff.
"I'm ecstatic," said Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, the bill's prime sponsor. "It extends what the voters of this state have already said they want to do for people."
The measure enjoyed wide support among Democrats. It cleared the House on a 58-39 vote, with most members voting along party lines. In the Senate, four Republicans voted for the measure.
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, was the lone senator to speak on the floor against the bill, arguing there was no need for it because same-sex couples already qualify for domestic partnerships.
But Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, said that because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages, states have to step in to clarify their laws.
Supporters say the bill approved Wednesday is another victory for Washington's domestic partnership law, which was created in 2007 after years of lobbying by gay activists.
"What we have witnessed is progress," said Josh Friedes, advocacy director for Equal Rights Washington.
However, he said because the federal government still does not recognize same-sex couples, the public "should not think that gay and lesbian families are adequately protected in Washington."
"They remain very vulnerable," Friedes said. "Most states don't provide reciprocity. When Washington couples travel outside, they remain especially vulnerable."
Also Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill that would establish a pilot program for booze sampling in the state's liquor stores. Senators approved the measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia on a 31-17 vote.
The measure directs the state to create a yearlong pilot program starting in September. Under the program, 30 liquor stores across the state would offer samples of local and out-of-state liquor.
The samples would not be larger than one-quarter of an ounce, and total samples would not exceed an ounce of liquor, or less than a regular shot glass. The bill now heads to the House after an amendment was added in the Senate.
Supporters say the program will help produce revenue for the state.
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