Washington’s new “everything-but-marriage” law, recently approved by voters, will take effect on Thursday, providing expanded rights and responsibilities for domestic partners on the state registry operated by the state Corporations and Charities Division.
The registry has had a substantial increase in filings during the month after voters upheld the law in the November Election. There have been an average of 90 registrations a week since the election; the weekly average has traditionally been 35 to 40 new registrations.
“Our office is ready for the new changes and is hard at work to ensure the registration process continues to go smoothly,” said Corporations Director Pam Floyd. “Couples needing assistance completing the forms should not hesitate to contact our office.”
While the domestic partners will continue to register with the agency’s Corporations Division, the following changes begin December 3:
· Terminations will now be handled by the courts in similar fashion to a divorce proceeding. If termination is by death of one partner, then a termination may filed with the Office of Secretary of State when accompanied by a death certificate.
· If a member of a domestic partnership changes his/her name or address, they can file that change with the Office of Secretary of State. This form is available athttp://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/domesticpartnerships/ and in the Corporations Division lobby.
This past spring, Senate Bill 5688 was signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire. Immediately following, a group of citizens attempted to reverse the law by forcing a statewide vote on the issue through the referendum process, leaving the outcome of the law up to a public vote. However 53 percent of Washington voters approved Referendum 71 this November, meaning the original law will be implemented throughout the state.
The law expands benefits for partners, such as giving them sick leave to care for a domestic partner and rights related to adoption and child custody. Previously, Washington lawmakers provided hospital visitation rights for couples, and expanded rights in areas of community property and guardianship. To learn about how the new law impacts your domestic partnership rights, contact a trusted legal advisor.
New Jersey, California and Oregon are among the several states that, like Washington, have laws giving same-sex couples similar rights to married couples.
As of this week, there are more than 13,000 domestic partners registered in Washington State, both same-sex couples and heterosexual partners where one partner is 62 or older.