Dozens of gay couples lined up Monday morning in Olympia to register as domestic partners under Washington’s new law. And the sky did not fall.
A thoroughly nonthreatening crowd gathered outside the secretary of state’s office, many of them such longtime partners that even their gray hair and laugh lines matched. Most dressed casually, though two women tucked their hair under bridal veils and a few men wore ties. One couple showed up in a car decorated with a large sign that read “Just Registered.”
But the scene hardly resembled a cataclysmic event. Opponents of this measure have alternated between predicting and praying for such a biblical outcome.
Instead, couples began lining up at 4 a.m. to file paperwork. They told reporters of mixed feelings, ranging from elation to regret that the law does not go far enough.
This new law gives registered domestic partners important rights related to health and death. It allows them to visit one another in the hospital and make health decisions for each other. After death, it allows them to administer their partner’s estate, agree to an autopsy and receive a copy of the report, make an organ donation, decide how to dispose of the partner’s remains, seek damages for wrongful death, inherit without a will and arrange for burial as a couple.
This law falls short of granting gay couples every right granted to married ones. For example, many still won’t have access to their partner’s employee benefits, such as health insurance.
But it’s an important start. It signifies society’s changing views on civil rights for gay citizens. And one day, it’s likely Washington residents will look back on this law and wonder why it took so long to arrive.
Today we can’t imagine how earlier Americans ever thought women and minorities should be denied the right to vote. Once new civil rights laws have been established, the simple truth they represent shines clearer.
On the day before the state House of Representatives passed this law, the executive director of the Christian Coalition of Washington told reporters his group was praying for “earthquakes, famines or lightning strikes” to prevent it.
The earth did not move. Pestilence did not rain on the crops, nor did thunderbolts streak from the sky.
And once again in human history, the powers of justice and love prevailed.
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