Same sex partners and senior partners have the same legal rights and responsibilities as spouses
Governor Chris Gregoire today signed into law a measure to treat domestic partners with dignity and respect by clarifying that they have some of the same rights and responsibilities as married couples on issues relating to the health care, incapacity and death of their loved one.
"It is hard enough to make decisions that affect life and death," said Governor Gregoire. "This simply allows seniors and same sex partners to rely on each other and care for each other when they are faced with these decisions."
The legislation creates a registry of officially recognized domestic partners in the Secretary of State's office. In order to be eligible, the domestic partners must be of the same sex, or, for opposite sex couples, at least one of the partners must be at least 62 years old.
Seniors were included in the domestic partnership bill because many seniors live on low or fixed incomes and cannot remarry without losing their former spouse's pension or social security benefits.
Under the bill, registered domestic partners have the same rights as married couples in visiting health care facilities, providing informed consent for health care when the patient is not competent, title and rights to cemetery plots, authorization of an autopsy, disposition of remains, ability to make organ donation decisions, inheritance and administration of the estate if the partner dies without a will and the right to bring a wrongful death action.
Substitute Senate Bill 5336, sponsored by Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle), passed the House with 63 votes and passed the Senate with 28 votes. The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the Legislative session.