SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: A few answers to questions about gay marriage, domestic partnerships
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This article concludes a two-part report, begun Sunday, on the new same-sex marriage law that takes effect in Washington state this week.
It features answers to frequently asked questions about the topic.
Sunday's articles remain accessible on the PDN's website, www.peninsuladailynews.com.
As Dec. 6 nears when same-sex marriage will be legal in Washington state, many have raised questions about marriage and domestic partnership.
Here are a few answers, gleaned from sources in Olympia and Washington, D.C., as well as on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Q: My partner and I were legally married in Canada. Will the same-sex marriage be recognized in Washington?
A: Yes, as are all marriages that are recognized in other states or countries, said Patrick Reed, operations manager of the corporate division of the Secretary of State's Office.
“If it is recognized where it originated, either in another country or another state, then it will be recognized [in Washington state],” Reed said.
Already-married couples who want to marry in Washington state probably can do so, Reed said, but it isn't necessary.
Q: We're in a domestic partnership from Washington state and would like to marry. Do we need to dissolve the partnership before we wed?
A: It's not necessary to terminate a domestic partnership arrangement before getting married, Reed of the Secretary of State's Office said.
“Everything current under the domestic partnership arrangement will automatically roll into the marriage laws,” he said.
The process for dissolving a domestic partnership is similar to ending a marriage, costing about the same as a divorce.
It is necessary only for those who want to split up.
Those who want to remain together can marry now or wait until June 30, 2014, when the state will convert the partnership to a marriage.
Q: What if we do nothing?
A: You will find yourselves married as of that date, whether you want to be or not.
Q: We relocated here from New Jersey and are in a civil union. What should we do?
A: The state will recognize civil unions and domestic partnerships from elsewhere for 12 months. You have a year to convert your union to a marriage or the state will no longer recognize it.
Q: We don't want to marry, but we do want to form a domestic partnership. What are the rules?
A: After the law making marriage gender-neutral goes into effect this week, the only new domestic partnerships that the state will register are those in which one person is 62 or older, Reed said.
After June 30, 2014, domestic partnerships in the state will be maintained only for couples in which at least one person is 62 years old — whether they are gay or straight.
Domestic partnership will end for younger gay couples.
Q: I'm 65, straight and, to avoid losing my spousal pension benefits, entered into a domestic partnership a few years ago instead of marrying. Will I be able to stay in that partnership?
A: Yes. The state will maintain domestic partnerships for senior couples.
Q: I got married elsewhere a few years ago but am now with somebody else. Can we get married?
A: No. The new law prohibits you from marrying one person if you are already married to or are still in a valid domestic partnership or civil union with another living person.
You will need to get a divorce or dissolution before you can remarry.
Q: We live in Idaho, where same-sex marriage is banned, and so plan to marry in Washington. Are there legal implications we should know about?
A: Your marriage won't be recognized in your home state, meaning you will not be eligible for any of the legal benefits of marriage, such as property and inheritance rights.
If you later decide to divorce, you wouldn't be able to do that at home but rather would have to establish residency in Washington or another state that recognizes same-sex marriage.
It's not an issue for straight couples because any state will recognize their marriage and also will grant them a divorce.
Q: My partner is a foreign national here on a work visa. If we marry, would I be able to petition for my partner to get permanent legal status to stay in this country?
A: No. The federal government, which controls the nation's immigration laws, doesn't recognize same-sex marriages.
That means married gay couples are denied most federal benefits, which range from Social Security and military benefits to some kinds of health insurance benefits.
Last modified: December 02. 2012 6:19PM