On June 30, 2014, all state-registered same-sex domestic partnerships will automatically convert to marriages. According to the state registry, there are close to 6,000 registered same-sex domestic partnerships in Washington, many of whom do not know that they are about to enter into matrimony whether they wish to or not.
Despite the Secretary of State’s Office sending out notices about the auto-conversion to all registered domestic partnerships this March, many people whom this final phase of the state’s same-sex marriage law will affect are still unaware of it.
There are a number of details that everybody should be mindful of. First, the auto-conversion does not apply to a domestic partnership if one or both partners is at least 62 years old, or the couple has a dissolution proceeding pending before June 30, 2014. The conversion will also apply to domestic partners who have separated since establishing their partnership yet have not formally dissolved their union, as well as to domestic partnerships that now reside in a different state.
Additionally, many unforeseen complications are sure to arise come June 30th. Pam Floyd, corporations director in the Secretary of State’s Office, commented that, “We know there are scenarios we’ve not thought of,” referring to the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees domestic partnership registrations. “I’m sure we’ll come up against those and will handle them on a case-by-case basis. This is the first time we’ve had to confront something like this ...” she added.
Couples can request a marriage certificate from the Washington State Department of Health if they wish. ACLU-WA staff attorney Margaret Chen reminds domestic partners that the legal date of marriage for couples whose state-registered domestic partnership converts to marriage on June 30 will be their original domestic partnership registration date. Couples can also refer to the online Washington Courts Family Law Book to learn how to dissolve a domestic partnership.
The ACLU of Washington is cosponsoring with the Pride Foundation, the GSBA, Legal Voice, and others an educational event on Thursday, May 8th at City Hall in Seattle to discuss auto-conversions. This free event is open to the public and features a panel of experts to help answer questions. More information and RSVP details can be found at www.aclu-wa.org/events.