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I have a Washington Domestic Partnership. Do I Need To Do Anything So That I Can Be Married?

  • By: Christopher Benson
  • Published: October 22, 2013

 

Same Sex Marriage and Domestic Partnership in Washington. What does it all mean to you and do you need to do anything?

That’s a common question I get. Here is the short answer with the longer explanation below:

If you are at least 18 years old, but not older than 62 years old, live in Washington and have a current state-registered domestic partnership in Washington, and you do not take affirmative steps to dissolve or convert your domestic partnership into marriage by June 30, 2014, then under Washington Law your domestic partnership will automatically be merged into a marriage as of June 30, 2014.

However, if you want to be legally married before June 30, 2014, then you have to affirmatively take steps to convert your existing domestic partnership into marriage (if you already have a registered domestic partnership) or apply for a marriage license and get married.

Obviously, what comes along with being married is that you also need to take care of your estate planning for you and your spouse including Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives, Wills, Living Trust, designation and planning on how to handle real estate, children and other related issues.

Our firm offers a free consultation to help guide you through this process and take control of your new legal status and the implications that come along with being married.

Here is the longer explanation:

Washington Legislature ESSB 6239 provides for civil marriage between same sex couples, and amends provisions relating to Washing-ton’s registered domestic partnership law. The bill was ratified by voter referendum following the November 2012 election.

The bill amends Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act to eliminate the requirement that the civil marriage contract be between a man and a woman, thus allowing same sex couples to marry. The amendments allow a civil contract between two persons who are at least age 18 years old and who are otherwise capable. A person cannot marry if that person has a spouse or registered domestic partner living at the time of such marriage, unless the registered domestic partner is the other party to the marriage.

The Act amends the list of officers and persons who are authorized to solemnize marriages to include imams, rabbis, or similar officials of any religious organization. However, the Act provides protection to religious organizations by stating that no official of any religious organization is required to solemnize or recognize any marriage, provide accommodations or facilities related to the solemnization or celebration of marriage, or be subject to any claim or cause of action based upon its refusal to do so.

Partners in a state-registered domestic partnership may apply and receive a marriage license and have the marriage solemnized, as long as they are otherwise eligible to many, and their state-registered domestic partnership will be dissolved by operation of law by the marriage to each other.

Any state-registered domestic partnership in which the parties are of the same sex, and neither party is at least age 62 years old, that has not been dissolved or converted into marriage by the parties by June 30, 2014, will automatically be merged into a marriage as of June 30, 2014, In those cases, for purposes of determining legal rights and responsibilities involving individuals who had previously had a state-registered domestic partnership and had been issued a marriage license or are deemed married, the date of the original state-registered domestic partnership will be considered the legal date of the marriage. Effective June 30, 2014, the Act amends the definition of domestic partnership to two persons who share a common residence, both of which are at least age 18, and at least one of which is age 62.

The Secretary of State must send a letter to the address on file for each same sex state-registered domestic partner notifying the person of the changes in the law, as well as a second notice by May 1, 2014.

The Act includes reciprocity provisions, providing that if two persons in Washington have a legal union, other than a marriage, that was validly formed in another state or jurisdiction, and provides substantially the same rights, benefits and responsibilities of a marriage, and does not meet the definition of a domestic partnership (for example, a union where one of the parties is at least age 62), the parties will be treated as having the same rights and responsibilities as married spouses in this state, unless the relationship is otherwise prohibited by law, or the parties become permanent residents of Washington and do not marry within one year after becoming permanent residents.

Similarly, if two persons have a legal union other than a marriage that is substantially equivalent to a domestic partnership, it must be recognized as a valid domestic partnership in Washington, regardless of whether it bears the name of a domestic partnership. This reciprocity provision has importance not only for same sex couples coming to Washington from other jurisdictions, but also may enable Washington couples to have their status recognized in states who condition recognition of out of state relationships on the existence of reciprocity provisions for their residents under the law of the other state.

Originally, the law was supposed to be effective June 7, 2012. However, immediately after the governor signed ESSB 6239 into law, opponents of same sex marriage filed an application for a voter referendum to set aside the Act, Referendum 74.

In November 2012, Referendum 74 was passed by Washington voters.

For Washington resident same sex couples who are currently in a registered domestic partnership, estate planning advantages could be obtained by affirmatively converting their relationship to a civil marriage before the June 30, 2014 automatic conversion date.

Once married, property passing to a surviving spouse would qualify for the Washington estate tax marital deduction, whereas under current law the marital deduction will not apply to registered domestic partners until January 1, 2014. Similarly, changing the partners’ status to marriage may secure survivorship benefits currently only afforded to a surviving spouse.

Give us a call. Set up your free initial consultation to meet with Chris and put together a Peace of Mind Planning package to give you control of your life and handle your concerns. With a little bit of forethought, we can put together a plan that will provide you with Peace of Mind.

Christopher Benson

About the Author Chris served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity
Seattle/S. King County for 10 years and served as Vice President
of the organization during part of that time. Read More