Today, the State of Washington becomes the first state
in the history of the United States to pass a law
supporting the equality of same-sex partners by popular vote.
The law, SB 5688, has also been described as the "everything-but-marriage bill", protecting rights already recognized for straight couples, such as hospital visitation, adoption, funeral and estate procedures, and insurance and retirement benefits.
Signed into law on May 18, 2009 by Governor Christine Gregoire, the bill was held up for ninety days, which provided time for opposition members to organize and place an indefinite hold on the legislation, challenging it with the ballot measure Referendum 71.
Despite a history of chronic domestic violence by its leaders Larry Stickney
and Matt Shea
, the opposition group Protect Marriage Washington barely managed to gather sufficient signatures by September 1, 2009, albeit through fraud and deception
, in some cases.
Further controversy arose in that this was the first time in state history that petition signatures had been withheld from the public, in violation of policy that in previous instances had made signatures, formerly a matter of record, available for verification by the public. Claiming unspecified and unverifiable threats of violence by gays and lesbians, Stickney's group received special dispensation
through an indefinite reprieve by the US Supreme Court, preventing the signatures of his supporters from being released to the public until such time that his case is revisited.
Passing with a narrow 53% plurality
in an off-year election, the law was reaffirmed by the public on November 24, 2009, and certified today, December 3, 2009 at 12:01 AM by Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed and again by Governor Gregoire.