One issue that is frequently coming to the forefront in Spokane, Washington, and throughout the nation has to do with same-sex couples and how the changes to the United States laws are affecting them. Whereas in the past, Washington State recognized a domestic partnership, other states did not follow suit in granting same-sex partners recognition of their marriages. That, however, is now different with the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision that marriages between people of the same sex must be acknowledged across the country. For military couples, this is significant.
Same-sex partners in Washington State and across the country are watching closely as the perception of a domestic partnership and the legality of a marriage changes seemingly by the day. While the concept of marriage is being defined differently, it is unavoidable that many marriages will end in divorce. Understanding the state law when it comes to dissolution of a marriage whether it is same-sex partners or opposite sex partners and the legal issues therein is key to ending the union with both parties being treated fairly. The information provided is imperative.
Couples in registered domestic partnerships in Washington may get a big surprise in the mail soon. The state will be converting many domestic partnerships to marriage on June 30, and they are sending out notices to couples in registered domestic partnerships in Washington.
Many people in Spokane may be aware that Washington State laws provide domestic partners with most of the same rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples. At the time of dissolution of a domestic partnership, rules pertaining to legal issues such as property division, alimony, child support, child custody and child visitation are identical to those applied to married couples divorcing. This rule now applies to married same-sex couples too.
Marriage is no doubt considered by most a sacred bond between two people, even in this day and age, from the quietest suburb in Washington State to its busiest thoroughfare. Yet, the passage of time has witnessed the legal and societal recognition of relationships other than a marriage. Domestic partnerships, for example, represent one such relationship, which denies a couple certain benefits that would otherwise be granted only to married couples.
Domestic partners who are registered in Washington have similar rights and responsibilities as married couples. The United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in June, which also led to a change in the Internal Revenue Service policy. The IRS now recognizes legal same sex marriages, regardless of whether the marriage is considered legal in the state where the couple resides. A same-sex couple that registers their marriage in one state where it is legal but resides in a state where their marriage is not recognized will have the same benefits and tax deductions under the new laws.
In Washington State and across the United States, domestic partners and same-sex couples face a unique set of challenges. With legal protections that vary significantly from state-to-state, same-sex couples must be careful to protect themselves when it comes to family law issues at all stages of their relationship.
Despite the fact that Washington now recognizes domestic partnerships as the equivalent of marriage under state law, there are still significant obstacles for same-sex couples under federal law. Probably the most significant obstacle that same-sex couples face is the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The following is a summary of DOMA and an overview of how the law can affect domestic partnerships, despite their newfound status in the state of Washington.
Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a state law in February legalizing gay marriage in the state. Opponents of same-sex marriage in Washington state are trying to obtain 120,577 signatures in order to allow a referendum seeking to overturn the family law.