House gives final approval to controversial domestic partner bill

Over the strong objections of Republicans, legislation that would broaden domestic partnership rights in Washington moved through the state House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon. Senate Bill 5688 would give same-sex domestic partners all the legal rights and benefits of married heterosexual couples.

Referred to as the “everything but marriage” bill, its supporters, including all six of the Legislature’s openly-gay lawmakers, acknowledge that the measure is the legal equivalent of same-sex marriage.

Rep. Matt Shea, an ardent opponent, voted against the measure, warning that it would move Washington incrementally closer to legalizing same-sex marriage, endanger free speech and religious liberty, and establish legal grounds for challenges to the state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

In his floor remarks, he said the bill also redefines traditional marriage.

“We need to make it clear that this bill takes away the substance, the essence of marriage. We made the conscious decision at the founding of our country to promote marriage above all other legal unions. That followed 6,000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition,” said Shea, R-Mead. “Without question, putting same-sex couples on the identical legal footing as married heterosexual couples is a dramatic setback for society’s most consequential social institution.”

Shea also questioned the cost of the bill, warning that the measure would saddle the state with a hefty multi-million dollar price tag.

“The cost would be $8.5 million for 5,200 domestic partnerships. That’s about $1,600 each, which seems to me like a pretty big transfer of wealth,” he said. “Our state is facing a major budget crisis, with a deficit that exceeds $9 billion. This is neither the appropriate time, nor the appropriate reason to add to the financial burden, especially when we are looking at cutting programs that aid the disabled and other vulnerable citizens.”

Republicans offered more than a dozen amendments to refine the measure, including a proposal to send the issue to the ballot as a referendum. Each of the amendments was rejected by majority Democrats.

The measure, which passed the Senate March 10, cleared the House on a near party-line vote of 62-35, and was sent to the governor.

“I am disappointed, of course. For many of us, this goes right to the heart of deeply held beliefs. The pressure here to change the law is significant, but I will continue to do everything within my power to defend traditional marriage, religious liberty and free speech,” Shea concluded.

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Washington State House Republican Communications