Domestic Partnerships apply to heterosexual couples aged 62 years and older, and are governed by RCW 26.60. Prior to June 30, 2014, this statute also covered same-sex couples. However, on November 6, 2012 the State passed Referendum 74, and RCW 26.60.100 was amended to provide:
(3)(a) Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, any state registered domestic partnership in which the parties are the same sex, and neither party is sixty-two years of age or older, that has not been dissolved or converted into a marriage by the parties by June 30, 2014, is automatically merged into a marriage and is deemed a marriage as of June 30, 2014.
Thus, same sex couples can now marry in Washington State. Although heterosexual couples age 62 and older can also marry, the Legislature recognized that “domestic partnerships” could still be valuable for such couples, explaining in RCW 26.60.010:
The legislature explains the purpose of the statute, stating:
Many Washingtonians are in intimate, committed, and exclusive relationships with another person to whom they are not legally married. These relationships are important to the individuals involved and their families; they also benefit the public by providing a private source of mutual support for the financial, physical, and emotional health of those individuals and their families. The public has an interest in providing a legal framework for such mutually supportive relationships, whether the partners are of the same or different sexes, and irrespective of their sexual orientation.The legislature finds that the public interest would be served by extending rights and benefits to couples in which either or both of the partners are at least sixty-two years of age. While these couples are entitled to marry under the state’s marriage statutes, some social security and pension laws nevertheless make it impractical for these couples to marry. For this reason, chapter 156, Laws of 2007 specifically allows couples to enter into a state registered domestic partnership if one of the persons is at least sixty-two years of age, the age at which many people choose to retire and are eligible to begin collecting social security and pension benefits.The rights granted to state registered domestic partners in chapter 156, Laws of 2007 will further Washington’s interest in promoting family relationships and protecting family members during life crises. Chapter 156, Laws of 2007 does not affect marriage or any other ways in which legal rights and responsibilities between two adults may be created, recognized, or given effect in Washington.
If you have any legal questions about Domestic Partnerships, please feel free to contact us.