The Law As It Presently Exists
Washington law currently provides that marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female, who are both at least eighteen years old and otherwise capable of marrying. The law prohibits marriage if the parties to the marriage are of the same sex or are closely related, or if a party to the marriage is already married to somebody else. A marriage is void if one of the parties is under age seventeen, unless a superior court judge waives the age requirement based on a showing of necessity. A marriage entered into in another state or jurisdiction is recognized as valid unless Washington law would have prohibited the marriage if it had been formed here.
The state also currently maintains a domestic partnership registry. Two individuals of the same sex may enter into a state-registered domestic partnership if they meet certain requirements. Two individuals may also enter into a state-registered domestic partnership if at least one of them is over 62 years old. The other requirements for entering a domestic partnership are that the couple share a residence, are both at least eighteen years old, are not closely related, and neither is married or in a domestic partnership with anyone else. A legal union of two persons that was validly formed in another state or jurisdiction, and that is similar to a domestic partnership, is recognized as a domestic partnership in Washington.
The same rights, responsibilities, and obligations that state law grants or imposes on married couples and their families also apply to state-registered domestic partners. The terms spouse, marriage, marital, husband, wife, widow, widower, next of kin, and family, when used in state statutes, apply equally to state-registered domestic partnerships as well as to marital relationships and married persons. Similarly, laws about dissolution and invalidation of marriage apply equally to state-registered domestic partnerships. Gender-specific terms such as husband and wife used in any statute, rule, or other law are construed to be gender neutral, and applicable to individuals in state-registered domestic partnerships.
The Washington Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This prohibition applies to employment, real estate transactions, credit transactions, insurance, and to the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement.
The Effect of the Proposed Measure, if Approved
If approved, this measure would allow same-sex couples to marry. Other prohibitions on marriage, such as those based on age, being closely related, and already being married to somebody else would continue to apply. Marriage laws would apply without regard to gender. This measure specifies that gender-specific terms like husband and wife will be construed to be gender-neutral and will apply to spouses of the same sex.
This measure provides that clergy are not required to perform or recognize any marriage ceremony. No religious organization, or religiously-affiliated educational institution, would be required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the performance of a marriage. Clergy, religious organizations, and religiously-affiliated educational institutions would be immune from any civil claim or cause of action, including a claim or cause of action based on the Washington Law Against Discrimination, based on a refusal to perform or recognize any marriage, or to provide facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods related to the performance of a marriage.
State and local governments would be prohibited from basing actions relating to penalties, benefits, licenses, or contracts on the refusal of a religious organization to provide such accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services, or goods. State and local governments would be prohibited from basing actions relating to penalties, benefits, or contracts on the refusal of a person associated with a religious organization to solemnize or recognize a marriage. The measure does not change or affect existing law regarding the manner in which a religious or nonprofit organization may be licensed to provide adoption, foster care, or other child-placing services.
This measure would also recognize, as valid in Washington, marriages between same-sex couples entered into in another state or jurisdiction and recognized as valid in that other state or jurisdiction, unless either party to the marriage was already married to a different person or the parties to the marriage are closely related. It would also recognize certain legal unions between two persons, other than marriages, entered into in another state or jurisdiction. This provision applies if the legal union provides substantially the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities as a marriage, but does not meet the definition of a domestic partnership in Washington. Washington law would then treat such couples as having the same rights and responsibilities as married spouses in this state, unless the relationship is otherwise prohibited by Washington law or the couple does not marry within one year of becoming permanent residents of Washington. Two individuals would not be prohibited from obtaining a marriage license in Washington on the basis that they validly entered into a legal union, other than a marriage, in another state or jurisdiction.
After June 30, 2014, state-registered domestic partnerships would be available only to couples in which one partner is at least 62 years old. The parties to existing same-sex domestic partnerships may either get married or dissolve their domestic partnership. Same-sex domestic partnerships, in which neither party is over 62 years old, will be automatically converted into a marriage as of June 30, 2014, unless the parties either get married or dissolve the domestic partnership before that date. The Secretary of State would be required to send letters to each same-sex domestic partner advising of these changes.
The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill.
This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.
Should this bill be:
[ ] Approved
[ ] Rejected