Voters in Washington state are deciding today (Tuesday) whether to allow expanded rights for gay domestic partners.

The law, known as the ‘Everything but marriage’ measure, was due to come into power in June but was put on hold due to the referendum campaign, known as R-71.

Currently, the law provides gay couples with only some of the benefits given to straight married couples. Almost 6,000 domestic partnerships have been filed since 2007, when the law was passed.

If the state’s voters approve the expansion, it will give gay couples all the rights afforded to heterosexual couples.

These include the right to use sick leave to care for a partner and rights related to adoption, child custody and child support.

Older heterosexual couples are also permitted to have civil partnerships to gain inheritance and organ donation rights, although it is thought that the majority of those who have used the law are gay.

Voters in Maine are also deciding whether to grant their gay citizens new rights today.

The state passed a law allowing gay marriage in May but opponents collected enough signatures to force a referendum.

If voters are persuaded to keep gay marriage, Maine will be the sixth state to legalise it after Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Iowa.