Early figures from Washington state suggest that voters have opted to approve a new ‘everything but marriage’ measure for gay couples.

As yet, fewer than half of the votes have been counted and current support levels are at 52 per cent.

All but one of Washington’s counties vote by post, meaning that a final result may not be available until the end of the week.

Referendum 71 would expand the state’s current domestic partnership law, essentially giving gay couples all the rights of marriage.

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

The move will also give gay couples new inheritance rights.

It was due to come into power in June but was put on hold due after Protect Marriage Washington collected the 120,000 signatures needed for a referendum.

Washington has had domestic partnerships since 2007 and it is estimated that almost 6,000 have been carried out.

In Maine, gay rights opponents have claimed a victory as figures show the state’s voters have opted to repeal a new same-sex marriage law.