By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
June 30th, 2014 will mark a significant change in nomenclature and status for same sex couples who had previously registered their domestic partnership starting in 2012. After this date, these couples’ status will change automatically to “married.” This presents an opportunity to become married without the administrative overhead of now filing for a marriage license. Couples after June 30th who enter into a union will be considered married.
Following legislation resulting from Initiative 74, approved by state voters, nearly seven thousand domestic partnerships will convert. An exception in the law is for domestic partnerships having at least one spouse at least sixty two years of age which will not convert. The reason stated in the statute is:
While these couples are entitled to marry under the state’s marriage statutes, some social security and pension laws nevertheless make it impractical for these couples to marry. For this reason, chapter 156, Laws of 2007 specifically allows couples to enter into a state registered domestic partnership if one of the persons is at least sixty-two years of age, the age at which many people choose to retire and are eligible to begin collecting social security and pension benefits.
State law will continue to offer the Domestic Partner designation for these couples and will allow these couples to obtain a Marriage Certificate from the Department of Health.
In an unusual measure of public information the Office of the Secretary of State is required to provide notification to those couples to help ensure they are informed of this benefit and what the process provides them.
Within sixty days after the effective date of this section, the secretary of state shall send a letter to the mailing address on file of each same-sex domestic partner registered under chapter 26.60 RCW notifying the person that Washington’s law on the rights and responsibilities of state registered domestic partners will change in relation to certain same-sex registered domestic partners.
Additionally, the law now allows couples registered as Domestic Partners in another state or jurisdiction to obtain marriage licenses in Washington.
While this is certainly to the LGBT community and others a significant step forward in the direction of full acceptance of same sex marriage by the government, there is much work ahead on the federal level.
By Darren Smith
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