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The fallout from same-sex marriage approval in Washington state

While many Spokane residents may be relieved the campaign season has come to an end, others may be asking what, if any, changes the state can expect to see. Of particular note was Referendum 74, which we all know passed in Washington state last week.

Of course, there is already a domestic partner registry in Washington state. With the referendum passed, domestic partnerships are expected to remain unchanged for those who are 62 and older. If younger couples who are in domestic partnerships take no action, on June 30, 2014, their domestic partnerships will automatically convert into marriage.

Should a couple in a domestic partnership wish to dissolve their partnership, they would be wise to do so before it converts to marriage.

A letter will be sent out by the secretary of state's office to explain the legal options available to those couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, who are registered in Washington state.

The domestic partnership registry, which legally recognizes relationships and seeks to offer non-married couples similar benefits to married couples, will now fade out as only senior citizens will be allowed to remain on the registry.

Legally speaking, same-sex couples will now be able to obtain many of the same benefits and rights as a legally married opposite-sex couples here in Spokane. While this is a watershed moment for Washington state, some differences between same-sex and heterosexual marriages do still remain on the federal level. For now, only heterosexual marriage offers federal benefits, such as Social Security, Medicaid, veterans' benefits and more.

All of the effects of the passing of Referendum 74 have yet to be seen, but many speculate it could lead to some domestic partner dissolutions and certainly more applications for marriage licenses, including from those residing in surrounding states.

Source: The Columbian, "Same-sex marriage: What lies ahead?," Paris Achen, Nov. 7, 2012

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