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Same-sex partners in Washington await ruling

For same-sex partners in Spokane, throughout Washington State and across the U.S., there is a consistent flux as to whether their domestic partnership agreement will be recognized everywhere. In spite of Washington State's acknowledgement of domestic partnerships, the overriding issue of same-sex marriage is still awaiting resolution across the country, with a pending decision from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding this situation.

The decision by the Supreme Court should be made by June and those who support the right of same-sex partners to marry hope it will be a solution for the entire country. Until this is resolved, however, even those who were legally married in a state such as Washington will face problems because of the lack of clarity across the country. Of the 50 states, 37 have legalized a marriage between people of the same sex. That has not led to a clear criteria as to what happens with other issues such as estate plans, retirement, paying taxes and divorce.

Certain jurisdictions don't recognize a same-sex marriage leading to a muddled circumstance to the partners if there is a disagreement, medical issue or the couple moves and decides to end the union. The Social Security Administration currently adheres to what is known as a "state of residence" rule. When a couple that had been married in a state where same-sex marriage was legal, it is recognized with benefits if they are applicable. This is not the current case in other states if they move elsewhere. That policy is being reviewed. For many federal agencies, if the marriage was performed in a state in which the union was legal, it will be acknowledged as legal.

The hope is that the ruling by the Supreme Court will settle these issues. That said, couples that are facing legal concerns in Washington State need to understand how the process is currently construed and what changes are possible across the country once the decision is made. Since the law is still being determined for same-sex partners, having help from a legal professional can provide guidance throughout the process.

Source: CNBC.com, "Same-sex couples in financial limbo until Supreme Court rules," Anna Robaton, May 11, 2015

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