Referendum 71, which if passed will enact into law Senate Bill 5688, giving same-sex couples and domestic partners over the age of 62 the same benefits given to married couples, is supported by a large number of Jewish institutions. It’s a list that includes many synagogues and individual rabbis across the state, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center — among many others. We urge approval of R-71 as well.
It’s an issue of fairness. As Jews, whether it’s because we have experienced unequal rights so many times in the past, or because we live in the belief of loving thy neighbor as thyself, it should be of utmost importance to ensure that our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow synagogue members have the same rights as everyone else.
While we recognize that many people in the Jewish community do not support same-sex marriage rights, we must emphasize that R-71 is not about marriage. It is about the rights of some family members who do not have the necessary access to their loved ones in times of crisis. It is about conferring those rights that people who can legally be married may take for granted — hospital visitation, state pension and death benefits, guardianship, even dissolution of the relationship — to those who do not have them even though they have loving partners and families.
R-71 also allows seniors who, whether because of economic or familial reasons, find living with a partner best for their health and well-being, and give that partner the ability to act in the event of an emergency or death but does not strip away benefits conferred upon them by a former spouse. We do have concerns about ethical issues surrounding what could be construed as “double dipping” from pensions or the ability to continue receiving alimony or other spousal support, and whether this aspect of SB5688, as often happens with any new law, could result in unintended consequences. It’s an aspect of the law that may need to be revisited by the Legislature in the future.
While we think it is absurd that the happiness and rights of others must be subject to popular vote, it is the situation in which we find ourselves. And it is because of that we urge voters to approve passage of Referendum 71.