Washington State voters have passed the 2012 Referendum Measure No. 74 which will amend
the State statutes controlling Marriage and Domestic Partnerships. Until the passage of RM No. 74, Washington State laws recognized the marriage of only one man to one woman, and specifically prohibited the marriage if the parties were of the same sex.
The State statutes will now be amended to remove the prohibition of marriage between persons of the same sex, and will specifically recognize the marriage of any two adult persons, unless otherwise prohibited by State law. Washington State laws still prohibit marriage if one of the parties is already married, under the age of 17, or of too close of kinship. Only the prohibition of Same Sex marriage is removed by passage of the Referendum.
Same-Sex marriages performed in, and recognized by, other States will now be recognized by Washington State courts, and will be given full faith and credit as a valid marriage. Marriage is a religious institution as well as a legal status.
Referendum Measure No. 74 expressly does not require any religious organization to perform or recognize Same-Sex marriages. A religious organization’s refusal to recognize a Same-Sex marriage will have no effect on the legal status of that marriage in the State of Washington. Religious approval or recognition of a marriage is not required under Washington State law.
Our State and Federal governments consider marriage to be a civil contract that vests certain rights, privileges and obligations on the married parties. Our Federal government has previously passed the Defense of Marriage Act that expressly recognizes the only marriages of one man to one woman.
Same-Sex marriages are not recognized under Federal law. The Federal government does not recognize the parties to Same-Sex marriages as married persons for the purposes of Federal benefits and rights. Same-Sex couples cannot file Federal Joint Income Tax returns as a married couple, and will not receive Social Security or Medicare benefits based on their Same-Sex spouse’s contributions.
The Federal government has passed HIPPA, which is a Federal law that severely restricts the disclosure of a patient’s medical condition or information to anyone other than a spouse or immediate family member. Now Washington State Family Law will allow the release of a patient’s medical information to a same-sex spouse, but the release of that information would be a violation of HIPPA and expose the medical provider to Federal sanctions. The HIPPA issue is but one of many legal situations that will be causing problems for our citizens until the State and Federal laws are made compatible.
Under Referendum Measure No. 74 all existing properly registered Domestic Partnership will be automatically converted to Same-Sex Marriages on June 30, 2014, unless one of the parties is over the age of 62 years. The rights and benefits bestowed to partners registering under the Washington State
Domestic-Partnership Act will remain valid for all partners in relationships where one of the parties is over the age of 62. Many of our Domestic Partnership registrations are by couples that are not of the same sex, and were entered into for legal rights and benefits needed by our single senior citizens.