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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guess What, Same-Sex Domestic Partners in Washington? You're Gonna Be Married, Like It or Not

Posted by on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Ah, June—such a lovely month for a wedding. But wedding or not, this June 30th, "the state of Washington will convert to marriage the domestic partnerships of thousands of gay and lesbian couples who have not gotten married on their own or not gotten a legal dissolution," as the Seattle Times reports.

Commenters over there point out that if one partner is 62 or older, the couple will not become auto-married. And while some think the whole thing seems heavy-handed—"A blanket change from DP to marriage might not be what some partners really want"—others point out that we all voted for this to happen and it shouldn't be any big surprise:

The fact that partnerships would convert to marriages was featured prominently in the public debate. Those of us in domestic partnerships would have had to be asleep to not know the bill would convert us to married.

Thoughts, Slog?


Comments (28) RSS

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Gordon Werner 1
I'm not married, nor am I gay ... But even I am aware this was going to happen. They made it pretty clear when we voted on and passed the initiative that this would occur.
Posted by Gordon Werner on February 18, 2014 at 12:45 PM · Report this
My understanding is that there are issues with pensions for seniors, meaning that they needed a separate system from marriage. It sounds like gay seniors will still have the same rights, so this is just clarifying the situation. If you're under 62, your choices are "single" or "married", whether you're gay or straight.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on February 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 3
BREAKING: Democracy functions as expected and agreed upon.
Posted by MacCrocodile on February 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM · Report this
The alternative, auto-dissolving domestic partnerships, would leave some couples without legal protections if they happened to be living under a rock and didn't know that domestic partnerships were going away. It seems to me that auto-converting to marriage errs on the side of preserving legal protections for couples, which was the primary argument for domestic partnerships in the first place.
Posted by happy renter on February 18, 2014 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
So sad too bad got taken to the courthouse and now I'm glad
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 18, 2014 at 1:21 PM · Report this
LOL @ "DP to Marriage"
Posted by ogbog on February 18, 2014 at 1:22 PM · Report this
Dougsf 7
Would Washington issue a marriage license for a couple with an individual still registered as domestic partner to another?
Posted by Dougsf on February 18, 2014 at 1:28 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 8
@3, democracy shall be null and void where it surprises the internet though.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on February 18, 2014 at 1:34 PM · Report this
Tracy 9
This was pretty well talked about at the time. I'm surprised that people are being surprised by it now. I've also heard (from a few pals who've gone and officially married this last year) that the date of marriage is being back-dated by the state to the date of their domestic partnership, which is kind of cool. I mean, it still doesn't reflect the full length of their commitment, but cool that it will show as having been made several years ago.
Posted by Tracy on February 18, 2014 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Dr. Z 10
I wouldn't be surprised if this provision was challenged in court. DP is not marriage so the level of contractual consent is different. And as for everyone knowing about it - what about a couple that moved away to another state that didn't recognize DP, broke up without bothering to inform Washington state, and married other people? That would lead to a legal mess and the courts would likely rule that WA state exceeded its authority in auto conversion of DP to married.
Posted by Dr. Z on February 18, 2014 at 1:50 PM · Report this
I can't imagine a lot of downside to the conversion. I'm usually pretty imaginative about worst-case scenarios, too. (I'm defective that way. Well, among others.)

But, let's say there's a case where actual marriage would disadvantage someone, perhaps in terms of federal income taxes or something, isn't all they have to do is dissolve their domestic partnership before the conversion date?

You know what gets my goat, though? Here in New York, after same-sex marriage was legalized, couples who were married years ago in our Quaker meeting, and who had their lovely, engrossed Quaker marriage certificates, signed by at least 50 witnesses who stood and held them in the Light as they married before God, still had to start over. The damned NYS marriage certificates wouldn't be back-dated to the date of their religious-community-validated-and-certified religious marriages.

You guys are doing it right.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on February 18, 2014 at 1:56 PM · Report this
@10 I stand corrected. I'm not as good as I thought about imagining worst-case scenarios.

My self-esteem needs a drink now...
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on February 18, 2014 at 2:00 PM · Report this
I'm curious how the law effects my out of state partnership now that we're Washington State residents?

We registered in Portland where we were living at the time and later moved to Washington partly because of Oregon's homophobic law, and partly because we found a nice house.

Washington clearly honored our DP and we didn't and don't worry about that. Now that Washington State is converting the partnerships I've been trying to find if our partnership also auto-converts or if Washington will continue honoring it. Will we be one of the very few couples now placed in the "limbo" this was meant to avoid?

If anyone has any links to the actual portion of the law I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks in advance.
Posted by Kelly L on February 18, 2014 at 2:00 PM · Report this
fletc3her 14
@13 You are now married to your cat.

Here is the Washington State page about the conversion. There's some contact info at the bottom if you have questions.…

If that isn't enough I would try somebody like Lambda Legal to see if they can straighten things out.
Posted by fletc3her on February 18, 2014 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Demetria 15
I read the ballot and voted to recognize gay marriage and guarantee by law that every married gay couple gets the same benefits and protections of any other married couple. I did NOT vote for simply converting domestic partnerships into marriages. There's nothing whatsoever to prevent gay partners from choosing to formalize their relationships with public marriage vows or a quick stop at City Hall to fill out the forms for a license. But Jeez Louise, if the State is going to turn every domestic partnership into automatic marriage, it might as well turn every current separation of married partners into automatic divorce.
Posted by Demetria on February 18, 2014 at 2:52 PM · Report this
Does anyone know if this applies to domestic partners registered with certain counties but NOT registered with Washington state? I assume the answer is no, but I can't find a solid answer.
Posted by fearboner on February 18, 2014 at 3:09 PM · Report this
MajordomoPicard 17
@15 unfortunately, that's not how the initiative was broken down. Next time I'd recommend reading the bill itself, or the arguments in the voter information pamphlet, or the many breakdowns of what the bill did that were available online leading up to the election. Democracy depends upon an informed electorate.
Posted by MajordomoPicard on February 18, 2014 at 3:11 PM · Report this
@15: I am pretty sure you did... I mean in as much as that was what the law said that you voted for. Note also that the state WON'T be converting all DPs into marriage, just the ones which aren't being dissolved and where neither partner is over 62 as of June 30th, 2014.

This is equality: If you are both under 62, you can get married, or not. If one of you is over 62, you can get a DP, or you can get married, or be legally separate. It doesn't matter the genders of the people involved in any way.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on February 18, 2014 at 3:16 PM · Report this

Thank you from me and the cat.
Posted by Kelly L on February 18, 2014 at 3:28 PM · Report this
Damn cat distracted me... @ 14 :-)
Posted by Kelly L on February 18, 2014 at 3:29 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 21
This shouldn't be a surprise to very many people.

I was in a DP. As soon as marriage equality passed, we received a letter from the state explaining our options and the auto-convert default date. We got married last summer. Had we chosen not to be married, we would have had a year and a half to dissolve the DP so it wouldn't auto-convert.

Sure, there may be a handful of cases such as Dr. Z @10 describes, and the courts will have to work that out. But for the vast majority of the rest of DPs, this will be no surprise and there has been plenty of time to avoid the auto-conversion if we wanted to.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on February 18, 2014 at 3:34 PM · Report this
venomlash 22
If you guys have been doing DP for months or years, you might as well get married.
Posted by venomlash on February 18, 2014 at 3:37 PM · Report this
If you are surprised by this you are dumb as hell. It was a repugnant bill made by assimilationists and they will assimilate you now. Fuck off.
Posted by Agrippa on February 18, 2014 at 5:57 PM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 24
When the DP law was enacted back in 2008, the law said that if you wanted to break up, you couldn't just pack up your stuff and leave --- you had to go through the same kind of divorce proceeding that opposite-married people had to go through. We all knew about that, right?
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on February 18, 2014 at 6:01 PM · Report this
yucca flower 25
It's called "Common Law Marriage". It happens to straight couples too. Usually after living together for 7 years.
Posted by yucca flower on February 18, 2014 at 8:07 PM · Report this
Dr. Z 26
@21: you cannot legally dissolve a DP in a state where it is not recognized.

DPs are an affront to true civil rights for LGBT. They were never something our community freely chose or truly accepted. They were merely expedient: they were the best we could win from a deeply prejudiced electorate. They were Jim Crow marriages. The question is what to do about them now. To convert them to marriages is to confer legitimacy that was never deserved. To ignore them is to add insult and injury to the gay couples - myself included - who settled for the best deal we could obtain, shameful as it was.

This is what you get for setting up second class citizenship in the first place: a legal mess.
Posted by Dr. Z on February 18, 2014 at 8:47 PM · Report this
Straights do domestic artnershis also. Does this mean that they are now "married"? If not, why not? Gays can't choose between domestic artnershi and marriage, but straights can? So @18, the genders do matter: different genders aren't going to be automatically married.
Posted by sarah70 on February 18, 2014 at 11:49 PM · Report this
@27: we used to have two kinds of DP. Avoiding the puerile joke I really want to make, it was seniors and gays. There shouldn't be any straight DPs where both people are under 62. The state website states all domestic partnerships where both are under 62 will be converted to marriages.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on February 20, 2014 at 12:11 AM · Report this

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