Rep. Jamie Pederesen (D-43, Capitol Hill) was sipping a Pepsi in a paper cup in the wings off the state House floor this afternoon as colleagues came up to shake his hand and slap his back.
Rep. Pedersen's third and final domestic partners bill had just passed the House 62-35. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill), passed in the Senate in early March, 30-18.
"We are fully equal under the law," a beaming Pedersen told me. Since coming to the legislature in 2007, Pedersen, who's gay, has been passing domestic partners bills year after year, patiently adding up domestic partner rights and responsibilities until the list became equivalent to the list of rights that married couples have. This year's bill completed the list. It's an incremental strategy that's intended to make gay marriage (which is now totally symbolic) more palatable to opponents.
Pedersen said he could "imagine proceeding with a marriage bill" next year, but also cautioned that it depended on the political environment, which remains "in flux" given all the stories in play in Iowa, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and California regarding gay marriage and gay rights. Pedersen wondered if this final domestic partnership bill would spark an anti-gay rights initiative.
Some of the final (outstanding) rights that Pedersen's bill won today are: Survival benefits for partners of fire fighters and cops; right to pensions for partners of public employees like teachers; and streamlining the process for one partner to adopt the other's child—without things like home visits.