Same-sex rights address historic injustices | Guest Column

When I thought about the experiences and challenges I’d face as your state senator, I didn’t think that in my first year I’d find myself on the front lines of a fight that’s been brewing over the last 40 years.

From the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York, to the protests last year in California over the passage of Proposition 8, to rallies at state capitals this year, same-sex couples have been fighting against discrimination and working toward equality all across America — with limited success.

This is a battle our friends, neighbors and family members have been fighting, but it hasn’t been over power or territory, or about country or flag. Their struggle is one that we’ve seen far too many times in our country’s history — a fight for equal rights. This hasn’t been a war in the traditional sense of armies and navies, but like others in our history it has been a war where families are torn apart and far too much blood has been spilled.

We’ve taken steps — though not as many or as fast as I’d like — to equalize the way our state treats same and opposite sex couples. In 2007, Washington created the Domestic Partnership Registry, allowing same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples to register with the state for some of the hundreds of rights and responsibilities given to married couples.

In 2008, the Legislature took another step, bringing domestic partners closer — but not close enough — to equal treatment by the state.

I came to Olympia to serve the 40th District. Just as I can’t choose to represent a fraction of the population, I won’t let the state choose to not recognize the commitment and relationships of our friends and neighbors who happen to love someone of their own gender. When I voted in March to expand rights granted to domestic partners, the so-called “everything but marriage” bill, it wasn’t about giving something to a specific group of citizens. It is about moving Washington forward and ensuring fairness and equality for everyone in our state.

Opponents have tried to mislead the public about what our domestic partnership laws do for families in Washington. The bill I voted for will make sure that if, God forbid, an emergency worker is killed in the line of duty, the survivor — regardless of whether or not it is a survivor of the same sex — can be protected under the officer’s pension. It ensures that state agencies will treat domestic partners just as they treat married couples.

The law we passed is the latest manifestation of the most fundamental principle upon which our nation was founded: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. For our state and country to defend the idea of a place where all people are treated fairly by their government, steps like our domestic partnership laws are taken.

No one piece of legislation will solve our nation’s injustices, but over time we’ll evolve as a nation and undertake changes that move us forward. The steps we’ve taken with domestic partnerships will help close the gap between the hopes of our nation’s forefathers of a more perfect union, and the real-life struggles that continue to this day.

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