What is a Civil Union in Washington?

In Washington, civil unions are also referred to as state registered domestic partnerships (SRDP). As of June 30, 2014 the majority of Washington’s SRDPs were automatically converted to civil marriages. The only exception to this conversion rule involves heterosexual and same-sex couples where at least one of the partners was aged 62 or older as of June 30, 2014. These couples were permitted to retain their state registered domestic partnerships to ensure seniors continued to receive their benefits as social security and/or pension benefits are sometimes affected when an individual marries.

Civil Unions/Domestic Partnerships in Washington: From the Beginning

July 23, 2007

This day marks the first day that heterosexual and same-sex couples can register for a domestic partnership.

March 4, 2008

Washington lawmakers approve the addition of more than 170 rights and responsibilities to individuals in domestic partnerships: Governor Christine Gregoire signs the Bill on March 12, 2008. This new law becomes effective on June 12, 2008.

At this time, lawmakers who backed the legislation related to domestic partnerships state that their goal is to expand the marriage laws to include same-sex couples. These lawmakers consider the creation of domestic partnerships as a step in that direction. Furthermore, Civil Marriage Equality Bills are introduced to encourage discussion.

Once the 2008 bill that expands Domestic Partnership Law is implemented, the benefits and responsibilities provided to domestic partners include:

Rights related to inheritance and administration.

  • Visitation, information-access rights and the ability to make health care decisions.
  • Organ donation, burial, autopsy, disposition and the right to claim wrongful death.
  • Statutes related to domestic violence now apply.
  • Domestic partners have the right to sue on the community’s behalf.
  • Dissolution and community property laws are now applicable.
  • Testimonial privileges in the courtroom.
  • Transference of certain properties between domestic partners will not be taxed.
  • Veterans’ benefits from the state apply.
  • Partners of elected and appointed officials are subject to the laws that married officials’ spouses must abide by.

Jan. 28, 2009 – The “Everything but Marriage” Bill is introduced

Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5688 intends to provide domestic partners with “Everything but Marriage.” This bill amends state laws essentially making domestic partnerships (civil unions) equal to civil marriage.

May 18, 2009

Governor Gregoire signs the “Everything but Marriage Bill”.

Dec. 3, 2009

Washington voters approve the bill – 53 percent to 47 percent — thus, making the bill a law. This vote marks the first time that voters approve a statewide ballot measure extending relationship rights for individuals within the LGBT community.

Jan. 16, 2012

Senate Bill 6239 is introduced to amend RCW 26 – Domestic Relations. Besides legalizing same-sex marriage, State Registered Domestic Partnerships will be modified as well. This bill converts any undissolved domestic partnerships into marriages as long as both partners are under the age of 62.

Feb. 1, 2012

Senate Bill 6239 passes in the Senate (28 to 21).

Feb. 8, 2012

The House of Representatives passes HB 2516 (55 to 43), which is the companion bill to SB 6239.

Feb. 13, 2012

Governor Gregoire signs the Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239: This Act changes the definition of civil marriage from male and female, or husband and wife, to simply two persons. The law was to take effect in June of 2012, but due to opposition from voters the law was not enacted as scheduled.

Nov. 6, 2012

Voters approve Referendum 74 legalizing same-sex marriage. This law also addresses the automatic conversion of domestic partnerships to civil marriages on June 30, 2014 if such partnerships are not dissolved or already voluntarily converted prior to that date.

Dec. 6, 2012

Same-sex couples can legally marry in Washington.

June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples can legally marry nationwide.

Getting Married in Washington

  1. Both same-sex and heterosexual couples are required to obtain a marriage license. A marriage license is valid for 60 days after issuance. If a couple does not marry within that timeframe they must apply for another license.
  2. Once the license is attained the couple must wait at least three days to hold their wedding ceremony.
  3. The marriage must be solemnized by an individual who is legally authorized to do so in the state of Washington. Furthermore for the marriage to be valid at least two witnesses must be present at the time nuptialsare exchanged.
  4. The federal benefits, responsibilities, and protections afforded to a married couple that consists of a male and female also applies to individuals in same-sex marriages.

Divorcing or Dissolving an SRDP in Washington

A marriage or state registered domestic partnership must be dissolved in court. In order to divorce or dissolve an SRDP in Washington at least one of the spouses or partners must reside within the state or be stationed in Washington as a member of the armed forces.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If you reside in or near Spokane and are currently in a state registered domestic partnership or a civil marriage that you would like to dissolve, contact our office today. The caring and compassionate family law attorneys at the Twyford Law Office are here to help you through this difficult time.