Jamie Pedersen: Has answers!
  • Jamie Pedersen: Has answers!
We've already looked at exactly when gay marriages can start, and what the courthouse wedding deal will be.

But you have more questions! And we have more answers! (Courtesy of gay logistics whiz Jamie Pedersen.)

Q: Now that gay marriage is becoming legal in Washington, what happens for people who already got gay-married in another state?

"If you got married in another state before, then there is no need to get married again in Washington," Pedersen says. "Your marriage will be respected and given legal effect as a marriage by the state of Washington effective December 6. I think that the lawyers who work around the country on marriage equality generally discourage people from getting married in multiple jurisdictions (because our argument has always been that our legal relationship status should be portable, just like heterosexual marriages). That said, I think it is likely that many folks who got married elsewhere will want to do it legally here. Although it is unnecessary, I don’t see any legal problems with doing so. (As long as you are marrying the same person!)"

Q: What happens for people who are already domestic partnered in Washington State?

"If you have a registered domestic partnership in Washington, then you have three choices," Pedersen says. "A) Get married. You can do this anytime after December 6, just like any other couple. B) Dissolve your domestic partnership (which requires going to court, just like dissolution of a marriage). C) Do nothing, which would mean that on June 30, 2014, your domestic partnership will automatically convert into a marriage. The date of your marriage would be considered the date of your original domestic partnership registration.

"The only small footnote is that that applies to couples where neither partner will be 62 or older by June 30, 2014. If one partner will be 62 or older by June 30, 2014, then the 'do nothing' option would lead to their remaining domestic partners."

Q: And why, exactly, is there this provision for older domestic partners staying domestic partners?

"In the original 2007 Domestic Partnership bill," Pedersen says, "we made the decision to include senior heterosexual couples (as had CA and NJ), largely to increase our base of support. We heard from a number of senior groups that remarriage penalties caused them to lose pension or other rights if they formally married a new partner after having lost a spouse. In other cases, it had more to do with cultural or family pressure not to reMARRY (the idea being that it was somehow disrespectful to the deceased spouse). So they were shacking up without legal protection for the new relationship—but it seemed appropriate for them to have health care decisionmaking and other rights that came with domestic partnership if they wanted them. And then in fact, about 10% of the folks who signed up for DPs were senior heterosexual couples. (We have never run the numbers on how many of the same-sex couples were seniors).

"So as we moved toward marriage equality, one of our biggest questions was how to handle the nearly 10,000 families who had registered as DPs. We decided to keep them available for seniors (for the reasons mentioned above) and close off that option for younger same-sex couples (largely to avoid the charge that same-sex couples would have any special rights)."

Q: Can only Washington State residents get gay married under the new law, or can anyone come here and get gay married?

"There is no residency requirement to get married," Pedersen says. "However, there is a residency requirement to dissolve a marriage (with a few small exceptions, mostly related to military service). So, folks who live in other states should give some thought to that before they come to WA to marry."

Q: Wait, so a couple can't get un-married unless they can both prove Washington residency?

"Just one spouse needs to be a resident," Pedersen says. "But yes, generally speaking, as a policy matter, Washington did not want to become a divorce magnet like Nevada, so it requires that there be a residency connection to the state for a couple to dissolve a marriage here."