Both Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and House Speaker Frank Chopp say that the proposal to provide same-sex partners with some of the same legal protections that married couples get has good odds of passing both the Senate and House this year.
Nearly half the Senate has signed on as co-sponsors of the Senate version, and fully half the House -- 49 lawmakers -- are co-sponsoring HB 1351, the House version.
A hearing is slated for 3:30 today in the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee on SB 5336. Slated to testify is Charlene Strong, who lost her partner Kate Fleming last month when a flash flood swept into Strong's basement apartment, trapping and killing her. On the other side of the issue will by Jon Russell, representing the conservative Faith and Freedom Network, which is opposing the bill. (Strong and Russell won't be the only ones to testify.)
"I sense pretty widespread support for the domestic partnership bill," Brown said at a meeting with capitol reporters last week. Unlike another bill to allow full marriage rights for same-sex partners, she said, "the approach that has the momentum is the domestic partnership approach."
A lot of people, gay and straight, she said, can sympathize with the plight of being shut out of a loved one's hospital room or funeral arrangements, something that some gay and lesbian couples wrestle with.
Chopp said married couples take those things for granted. Extending such legal rights to same-sex partners, he said, "is absolutely the right thing to do. We haven't had much caucus discussion of the proposal, but I think our caucus is wanting to extend civil rights."