In Wash., First Comes Domestic Partnership, Then Comes Marriage

By Paige Browning

The wedding day for about 7,000 same-sex couples in Washington is just three months away. It’s not a date they chose, but one set by the state’s same-sex marriage law. Some couples are excited, but others never planned to marry at all. Washington state is phasing out same-sex domestic partnerships, now that the couples can marry.
 
Piccirello: “We became domestic partners because I needed insurance, and I worked for a small business in north Idaho that didn’t offer it. Her company offered it only to domestic partners, so we applied.”
 
That’s Heidi Piccirello, who has been with her partner Kim Tucker for ten years. A clause in the marriage equality law says the couples will all be converted into marriage, on June 30th, 2014. Piccirello says they never intended to marry, and she doesn’t believe in what marriage means in our world. But they’ve decided to stick together.
 
Piccirello: “We’ve been married since six months, the way I look at it, we’ve been pretty committed. So its like… I don’t want a government form letter addressed to Washington state registered domestic partners, to tell me when my date of marriage is, you know.”
 
At the Washington Secretary of State’s Office, Pam Floyd says her department mailed all people in domestic partnerships to alert them about the marriage conversion. She says the couples still have time to dissolve their partnership if they don’t want marriage, but she doesn’t share much sympathy.
 
Floyd: “If they did not want to be married, and they wanted a domestic partnership because it didn’t have the same responsibilities of marriage, they should be aware that between 2007 and 2012 the law changed each year until the rights and responsibilities of a domestic partnership are equal with marriage.”
 
This is music to the ears of Matt Fleming. He and partner Casey Jackson held a large ceremony and joined in a domestic partnership in 2006.
 
Fleming: “When I found out that the registered domestic partnership was going to roll over into a marriage… it would just roll over and that would happen, I personally was relieved. I thought well that’s great, save us a step. We knew we were going to go to the courthouse and file the paperwork.”
 
Fleming and Jackson have two twin girls and he says they wanted to raise them in a family, they wanted to be married. He says once their marriage is certified they’ll celebrate again, but he’s wondering what will happen with some of his friends.
 
Fleming: “I was really relieved and I was excited about that, but then I started talking to my friends, and there was a lot of folks in the gay community that weren’t so thrilled with that idea. Some of them had registered and had since broken up, and hadn’t gone through the process of dissolving that domestic partnership. So now they need to get on that because they could easily be married… in a couple months.”
 
Floyd says as long as couples start the dissolution paperwork by as late as June 29th, the state won’t marry them right away.
 
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

Letter from Secretary of State:

March 15, 2014
Re: New State Law Effects on State Registered Domestic Partnerships
 
Dear Domestic Partner:

You are receiving this notice because many of the state registered domestic partnerships will be
converted to marriage on June 30, 2014. Our records indicate that you are currently registered in a
Washington State Domestic Partnership. On December 6, 2012 a new state law went into effect making
changes to the domestic partner registry that may affect you. This notice is a summary of those changes.

Under the new law, domestic partnerships of same-sex couples will be automatically converted to
marriages on June 30, 2014, UNLESS:
  • the couple has already legally married;
  • at least one partner is 62 years of age or older as of June 30, 2014; OR
  • the couple has legally dissolved their domestic partnership or has started a legal proceeding to dissolve their domestic partnership by June 30, 2014.

Here is a brief summary of some key points in the new law:

  • The law allows same-sex couples to marry. References to spouses in the law are applicable to spouses of the same sex.
  • No religious official is required to perform, recognize, or provide a place for any marriage. They, and their religious organizations, are also immune from civil action if they refuse to conduct a marriage.
  • No state agency or local government may discriminate against a religious organization that opposes any marriage.
  • Marriage is not allowed if one person has another spouse or a different partner in a state registered domestic partnership.
  • A domestic partnership between a couple does not prohibit that couple from obtaining a marriage license in Washington. Couples in domestic partnerships in Washington may marry each other.
  • Until June 30, 2014, Washington will continue to recognize all existing state registered domestic partnerships.
  • If a couple registered as domestic partners chooses to marry before June 30, 2014, their state registered domestic partnership will be dissolved as of the date of marriage.
  • As of June 30, 2014, state registered domestic partnerships, where neither party is 62 years old, will be converted to marriage without any action by the couple.
  • As of June 30, 2014, state registered domestic partnerships, where at least one party is 62 years old, will not be converted to marriage, but remain as domestic partnerships.
  • If, as of June 30, 2014, a state registered domestic partnership is in the process of dissolution, annulment, or legal separation, it will not be converted into marriage.
  • If a couple in a state registered domestic partnership marries or if their domestic partnership is converted into a marriage, the legal date of their marriage for purposes of determining their legal rights and responsibilities will be the date they registered their domestic partnership in Washington. However, the date of the marriage ceremony may still be listed on the couple’s marriage certificate.
  • If a couple from another state is in a valid legal union other than marriage, they will have the same rights and responsibilities as married spouses, while in Washington.
  • If a couple from another state or country is in a valid legal union other than marriage, and become permanent residents of Washington, they will have one year to enter into marriage to retain those rights and responsibilities.
  • If a same-sex couple legally married in another state or country, their marriage will now be recognized in Washington.
  • If a couple registered as a state registered domestic partnership in Washington and also legally married in another state or country, the couple may inform the Secretary of State’s office that their status should be changed from “domestic partners” to “married”. Couples may do so by sending a copy of their out-of-state marriage certificate to the Secretary of State’s office at PO Box 40234, Olympia, WA 98504. The couple should include a cover letter that provides their domestic partnership registration number.
Attached to this letter is a copy of the new law, and you may also find substantial additional information
about the new law at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=6239. Also attached is a letter
from the Department of Health regarding conversion to marriage if applicable to you.
If you have any questions or concerns about how these changes may affect you, please call us at 360-
725-0377.
 
Thank you.

Sincerely,
Kim Wyman
Secretary of State
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