Approve Washington Referendum 71 by 3 Nov 2009

Referendum 71 Pro: Bill Protects Rights of Domestic Partners, Including Heterosexuals

By Rory Bowman, The Columbian, Sunday, October 11, p. C7.

Born and raised in Clark County as a fourth-generation Washingtonian, I was brought up to treat people fairly. Not everyone will be as successful or happy as everyone else, but everyone should have the same opportunities. It is for this reason that I support Referendum 71 to preserve rights for state-registered domestic partners.

Opponents of Referendum 71 like to claim that it is about “gay marriage,” but clearly it is not. The ballot title explicitly says “a domestic partnership is not a marriage,” and taking away the rights of people who are not married (or cannot marry) does nothing to help families or seniors.

To enter a domestic partnership in Washington, at least one partner must be 62 or older, unless both partners are of the same sex. Domestic partners must live together (unlike married couples) and the purpose of the law is to provide mutual support, such as in a medical crisis. Domestic partners are allowed to speak for each other in medical emergencies, have access to health records, authorize organ donation, approve an autopsy or accept possession of a loved one’s body for burial.

Nothing in the domestic partnership law addresses the issue of sexual relations, and most registered domestic partners are 50 or older, regardless of gender.

Who then enters into domestic partnerships, and why? Many of us know older couples here in Clark County who care for each other but for legal reasons are not married. Perhaps it is a pair of old friends who are the only family the other has left. Perhaps it is a widow who would forever lose most of her Social Security, were she to remarry. Perhaps it’s a retiree whose health benefits or private pension would be lost with remarriage. Perhaps it is a devout Catholic who would be denied communion, were they to remarry. And yes, perhaps it is a gay or lesbian couple, who have been together for many years and would like to die that way.

Who among us would deny these people the protection and comforts that a domestic partnership brings them? In the eyes of the law, these people are almost strangers. Domestic partnerships help fix that.

The list of those in Southwest Washington who have stood up in support of Referendum 71 is a long one. From congregations such as Kol Ami and the Community of Welcoming Congregations to the YWCA, ACLU, Democratic party and unions; from firefighters to teachers to psychologists to the SEIU and Children’s Home Society. Large employers in the state endorse 71, including Boeing, Microsoft, and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Dozens of cities and newspapers stand in support of Referendum 71, as do scores of politicians such as Craig Pridemore, Jim Moeller, Steve Stuart, Pat Campbell and Pat Jollota. In passing the domestic partnership laws that they have, our state legislators have taken care to respect and protect marriage. This is how domestic partnership has won the support of mainstream groups such as the Washington Senior Citizens Lobby, a statewide coalition that includes the AARP.

Nothing in Referendum 71 affects anyone’s marriage, but much of it protects seniors and families right here in Clark County. Perhaps this is why recent polls by the University of Washington and Western Washington University show two-thirds support for domestic partnerships across the political mainstream. Your approval of Referendum 71 is a vote in support of fairness for 12,000 Washington domestic partners already registered.

Referendum 71 is about domestic partnerships, basic fairness for seniors and same-sex couples. By making it simpler for committed households to care for each other, we create a happier and healthier state.

Protect families. Support seniors. Approve Referendum 71.

Rory Bowman is a Vancouver computer consultant and a local team captain for “Approve 71” (

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