The Newcomer’s Guide to Domestic Partnerships and Same-Sex Marriages in Washington State

Laws in Washington provide a clear framework that allows two adults, regardless of gender, the right to enjoy the benefits of partnership or marriage throughout the state. In statutes, rules and laws relating to same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships in Washington, the words “husband” and “wife” are considered to be gender-neutral terms.

If you’ve recently moved to Washington from another state and have questions about domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage laws, this guide is a good place to find basic answers:

Your Out-of-State Marriage or Partnership 

Generally, as long as your domestic partnership or same-sex marriage was made legitimate by the laws of another state, it’s recognized as valid in Washington. As a member of a partnership or marriage formed in another state, you and your spouse or partner are entitled to all of the benefits offered to heterosexual couples in partnerships and marriages in this state. You are also allowed to marry each other again in Washington.

There are exceptions to this recognition. If you and/or your spouse were not at least 17 years of age, and you did not have a court order allowing the marriage, it will not be recognized as valid. If your marriage would be void in Washington for any other reason, such as a kin relationship or an existing marriage to another person, your marriage will not be recognized.

It’s a good idea to officially marry your spouse within a year of becoming a resident of Washington to maintain your out-of-state union’s status as a legally recognized marriage. Alternately, enter a state-recognized domestic partnership within that time frame to secure all of the legal benefits of partnership. Madison Law Firm, PPLC, can answer any questions you have about these and other civil contracts.

It’s Easy to Wed in Washington

The state of Washington recognizes a marriage as a civil contract between two people. In order to meet the qualifications to be married, both of these people must be at least 18 years of age, and both must be capable of entering into a civil contract.

The two people cannot be related by blood any closer than second cousins. Neither of the people can be a child, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandchild, niece, or nephew of the other person.

You don’t have to recite any specific vows to each other in order to make your marriage official in Washington. All you must do is stand before two witnesses and a religious or judicial official and declare that you take each other to be spouses.

Religious Freedom Laws Limit Same-Sex Participation

While the state recognizes and establishes same-sex unions, Washington also recognizes that religious institutions and organizations have the right to disagree with same-sex civil contracts. Whether or not you agree with a given church’s or faith-based organization’s opinions on same-sex marriage, the state gives these entities the right to deny you services and privileges.

A religious organization may turn you away from marriage counseling services, marriage workshops, religious retreats, and educational courses. They can deny you the right to hold your wedding in their facilities, and they can refuse to perform your marriage ceremony.

You have no cause of action against a religious official or institution if they deny you access to accommodations, goods, and services. No state or local agency can penalize a religious organization for refusing to serve same-sex couples.

If you or your partner are 62 years of age or older, there is a special domestic partnership allowed in Washington. This partnership addresses the problems older couples face with social security and other retirement issues.

To find out more about this special category of civil contracts, or to get help with a same-sex marriage, adoption, divorce or other action, contact our office to schedule a consultation. We stay on top of family and marriage laws in Washington state and do all we can to protect and assert your rights.

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