Monday, September 7, 2009

Domestic Partner Rights at Risk

In May of 2009, Governor Gregoire signed into law the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill. This bill granted same-sex couples, as well as heterosexual, unmarried seniors, the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual, married spouses.

Now those new rights are at risk. Those who oppose granting increased rights to same-sex partnerships created Referendum 71, which will put the new law up for public vote in November's election. Backers of Referendum 71 obtained enough signatures to have their initiative appear on November's ballot. The public vote in November will either uphold, or repeal, the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill.

Things you need to know about Referendum 71:

- You are voting to uphold, or repeal, a law that was already voted on by our legislators and signed into law by Governor Gregoire.
- The rights granted in this law give gay, lesbian and senior couples the same legal rights that heterosexual, married couples already possess.
- Voting YES on Referendum 71 means you want to UPHOLD the Domestic Partnership Expansion Law, while
- Voting NO on Referendum 71 means you want to REPEAL the Domestic Partnership Expansion Law.

How you can help:

Healers and mental health professionals can play a special role in this type of situation. We have the interpersonal and group process skills to be able to hold differences and facilitate difficult conversations. We have the knowledge of empirical data to support domestic partner relationships and refute discriminatory messages. We also know that contact theory suggests that the best way to reduce discrimination and prejudice is to have personal, 1:1 contact between individuals who hold prejudicial beliefs and those in the target group. Therefore, we are asking you to personally be a part of the effort to VOTE YES on 71.

Equal Rights Washington and Washington Families Standing Together are hosting community meetings throughout September in communities all over Washington. These meetings will give people the information, materials, and support we need to go out into our communities and talk to people about the importance of this law and how it affects same-sex and senior partners on a daily basis. You can visit their website at to find materials, talking points, and information to help you. The more people go out into their communities and talk about Referendum 71, the better. Their schedule of community meetings appears here (you will need to contact them directly to RSVP).

This is an urgent and time sensitive issue, as mail-in ballots will be sent out to voters in less than 6 weeks. While asking for your support on this issue, we also recognize there are many ways to be a family that Referendum 71 does not include, such as being non-monogomous or polyamorous, and that the rights granted in this legislation are rights that ALL families need, regardless of relational status. Knowing that change is slow and incremental we choose at this time to tackle Referendum 71 while recognizing the bigger picture needs. We hope you will stand with us in supporting domestic partner rights for same-sex and senior couples.

Submitted by Stacey Prince

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