Gay Marriage | News | Washington

Some Same-Sex Couples Opting Out of Automatic Marriage in Washington State


On February 1st, 2012 SB 6239, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, passed the Washington State Senate with a vote of 28-21. In addition to officially recognizing LGBT marriages, SB 6239 also carried a provision that would automatically convert all domestic partnerships not dissolved within two years into marriages provided that one of the partners be under the age of 62.

7,500 couples across the state suddenly found themselves married yesterday after receiving letters from the state explaining the technicalities of the situation. The thing is though, not everyone wanted to get married.

"We do eventually want to get married and it's good to be in a state where we can get married,” Thomas Harlow told CBS affiliate KIRO TV. “[B]ut we weren't quite there yet and there weren't any other options.”

While marriage carries a slew of social and financial protections and benefits, it is not without its potential drawbacks for some couples. Married couples become responsible for shared debt one partner brings to the table, and it is not uncommon for newly married couples to get hit with the marriage penalty come tax time.

Some 1,200 couples managed to terminate their domestic partnerships before the June 30th cutoff point, according to Washington state records. The remaining newlywed couples have the option of staying married or initiating a 90-day divorcing process.

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  1. This is how it should be. We want equality, not special privileges. If straight people can't take advantage of "domestic partnership" then why should we? That legal status existed only because marriage was not available; now that it is, it should no longer have a legitimate purpose. You could argue that people enrolled into such an agreement to take advantage of those specific privileges rather than those provided by actual marriage, but as I have pointed out, this has always been about being treated equally under the law, and that includes the legal responsibilities of marriage, not just its benefits.

    Posted by: atomic | Jul 2, 2014 10:29:20 AM

  2. I live in Washington and I would in no way say that this happened "suddenly". You said it yourself that it passed two years ago and it gave everyone amble time to figure out what they wanted to do. It has been talked about and warned for a long time prior to the cut off date. I agree somewhat with the above poster. If they weren't ready to be married then they shouldn't have been registered as domestic partners.

    Posted by: Stephen | Jul 2, 2014 10:43:14 AM

  3. Agreed. If they didn't want to get married then why did they get a domestic partnership? If they weren't ready they shouldn't have bothered. And after 2 years of warnings they kep their heads in the sand (did they read NOTHING about marriage c

    Posted by: Macguffin54 | Jul 2, 2014 11:50:08 AM

  4. (Sorry, got cut off) coming to their state? If they are gay (AND in a DP) and marriage comes to your area and you don't bother to read up about it you deserve what you get.

    Posted by: Macguffin54 | Jul 2, 2014 11:53:08 AM

  5. (Sorry, got cut off) coming to their state? If they are gay (AND in a DP) and marriage comes to your area and you don't bother to read up about it you deserve what you get.

    Posted by: Macguffin54 | Jul 2, 2014 11:53:08 AM

  6. There have been numerous warnings in the news media about this. About every 6 months there have been stories on the news that this date was approaching and that the conversions to marriage would happen unless you told the state otherwise. The State of Washington is ON TOP OF THIS, and was able to convert our 2007 Washington Domestic Partnership to our 2008 California Marriage. We were very pleased with their action and the State Attorney Generals office kept us informed of what we needed to provide and when things happened. Now my marriage date matches the day we were married, not the day that we signed up for DP.

    Posted by: jeff | Jul 2, 2014 11:54:20 AM

  7. Bringing debt into the relationship does NOT make your spouse responsible for it unless you put his or her name on the account. Your debt is your debt regardless of whether or not you are married if you keep the debt solely in your name before you were married.

    Posted by: Richard Harney | Jul 2, 2014 12:35:36 PM

  8. A couple of things:

    First, as pointed out, you would have to be an IDIOT not to know that this was coming if you were registered here as a DP. Tons of notice and news articles.

    Second, any couple where at least one of the two is 62 or over will not auto-convert to marriage. This is for pension and retirement benefits reasons.

    Third, the reason for this elimination of domestic partnerships is precisely to support marriage, and not provide some sort of "marriage lite". The benefits come with the responsibilities. Don't like it? Don't get married.

    Posted by: SeattleMike | Jul 2, 2014 12:41:50 PM

  9. Personally, I think it would be great if we had marriage equality for all - and domestic partnerships for all.

    There are plenty of straight people who live together and are committed to each other, but don't want to get married... and I think it would be great if we embraced that and provided a means for them to legally share things without co-owning them, as well as share benefits like insurance.

    I'm all for people getting married if they want to - but not everyone wants that. And it would be great if we had something less formal and easier to get out of than marriage.

    Posted by: Ryan | Jul 2, 2014 1:49:28 PM

  10. Illinois did it differently. We have had civil unions since 2011. When we got marriage equality this year, couples could choose to convert the civil union to marriage or remain in a civil union. My partner (now husband) and I converted to a marriage, as I assume most couples did.
    Perhaps another difference here is that Illinois offers civil unions to opposite sex couples as well. We wanted all the legal rights and responsibilities related to marriage.

    Posted by: Rich | Jul 3, 2014 11:07:26 AM

  11. New Hampshire and Connecticut did the same thing several years ago when they went from civil unions to marriage equality - and Delaware also "auto converted" civil unions to marriages on July 1. And as other folks noted, there was a lot of notice and public discussion about this provision of the law for the past 2 years in Washington. And the figure is not 7500 couples - more like 4000, according to the Secretary of State.

    Posted by: David | Jul 3, 2014 2:38:54 PM

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