By Rebecca Faust
Legislators introduced two bills last week aimed at redefining marriage in Washington to include same-sex couples. Senator Ed Murray sponsored SB 5793, which was introduced on Monday, February 14th. Representative Jim Moeller sponsored HB 1963, which was introduced on Tuesday, February 15th. Both bills also had a number of co-sponsors.
Although the two bills are not identical, both would change the definition of marriage in RCW 26.04.010(1): "Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female who have each attained the age of eighteen years, and who are otherwise capable." Instead SB 5793 and HB 1963 would define marriage as "a civil contract between two persons who have each attained the age of eighteen years, and who are otherwise capable."
Both bills are prefaced with a lengthy explanation and justification.
HB 1963 claims that "many of [the rights, benefits, and obligations conferred by state statute on married couples] are currently unavailable to Washington's same sex couples even with Washington's domestic partnership law," but does not provide any examples.
Some of you may remember that the legislature passed the "everything but marriage" law just two years ago, which took effect after it was unsuccessfully challenged through the referendum process (Referendum 71).
SB 5793 does provide a list of "rights, benefits, or obligations" supposedly "unavailable to Washington's same sex couples," but this list isn't accurate. For instance, SB 5793 complains that same-sex couples don't have "the right to inherit property when there is no will." In fact, a registered domestic partner has the same inheritance rights as a spouse would have in the absence of a will.
I suspect that HB 1963 and SB 5793 are less about legal rights and responsibilities than about obtaining a stamp of approval, from the state if not from God, that a sexual union and mutual commitment between two men, or two women, is equal to the (sacred) union of a man and a woman in matrimony. Of course, I don't question that they want the legal benefits of marriage (which for the most part they already have) as well.
Neither bill has been scheduled for a public hearing yet, which means they probably will have to wait until next year at least. However, if you would like to express your concerns to your senator and representatives, you can call the legislative hotline 1-800-562-6000. This could be a good opportunity to show legislators that we don't want them twisting marriage and that if they will stand for the true definition of marriage, they will have support.