The Facts on Marriage Equality in Washington State
Why Marriage Matters
Broad Coalition of Support
- Support for the freedom to marry in Washington is unprecedented, which is why now is the time to grant marriage equality to all loving families in our state.
- This is an historic moment for Washington families – and committed couples across the state.
- Washington United for Marriage is a statewide coalition comprised of community groups, leaders and neighbors who are unified in bringing about civil marriage for all.
- We are united in protecting Washington families, and united in ensuring everyone in the Washington State has the freedom to marry the person they love.
- Washington United for Marriage will lead the statewide efforts to educate and advocate for the freedom to marry for all in Washington State. We will prioritize legislators in the 2012 legislative session to make sure that the majority of Washingtonians who support marriage equality have their voices heard.
- We will work neighbor-to-neighbor to tell our stories, and to make connections among families throughout the state.
Universal Protection of Family – A Pro-Family Campaign
- Marriage is about respect, dignity, love and commitment. This is the ultimate pro-family campaign.
- As families across the state struggle to hold and find jobs, and to keep their families warm and safe, we can take this step to make sure that all families are protected and included in our social and economic systems.
- The foundation of marriage helps build stable families. All couples in loving and committed relationships should be given the opportunity to create stronger and more successful families through civil marriage.
- We are asking for civil marriage. If lesbian and gay marriages are legalized, churches still would not be required to perform them – just as the First Amendment protects. Lesbian and gay couples who marry in civil ceremonies would be recognized by the state.
- The respect, protection and commitment that marriage represents should be available to all loving couples in Washington.
Now is the Time – Growing Support
- Across Washington State and the nation, the majority of citizens now support marriage equality. Now is the time for marriage equality in Washington State.
- There is growing support across the state to strengthen families and give all couples the chance to show their love and commitment through civil marriage.
- Though we come from different parts of Washington State, we are united in ensuring that all Washingtonians can build a loving family, which is recognized under the law, with the person of our choosing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we need “marriage” when domestic partnerships offer the same legal protections?
Even if you could construct a completely equal legal status, marriage is more than a contract. It’s about commitment, dedication, sacrifice and devotion. Everyone knows what you mean when you say you are “married”. No one understands what you mean when you say “domestic partners.” Culturally, marriage says “family”, and defines a couple’s relationship in a way no other word can. It’s a public statement of commitment, and provides families intangible benefits including clarity, security, dignity, spiritual significance, and an expectation of permanence.
In addition, although the “everything but marriage” law provided nearly all of the Washington state rights and obligations of marriage to domestic partners, other states and countries – including those that marry same-sex couples – do not recognize domestic partnerships. When Washington couples travel, their relationships may be given no legal effect. The federal government also recognizes marriages of same-sex couples for certain purposes (such as employee benefits and immigration rights), but does not recognize domestic partnerships. Finally, private parties often base contract rights on marriage – not domestic partnership.
Will churches and other religious institutions be forced to marry gay and lesbian couples?
No. Not only do our state and federal constitutions protect religious freedom, but the bill specifically says that no clergy person will be required to perform a marriage and the refusal to perform a marriage does not create a civil cause of action. Such a refusal may not be used as a reason by the government to penalize, withhold benefits from, or refuse to contract with any church or religious denomination. And no religious organization can be required to offer its facilities for any wedding.
Considering the difficult budget situation Washington is facing, why is this issue being raised now?
In these tough times, there’s nothing more important than strengthening all of our families. The marriage equality bill helps families. While there may be minimal cost to the state, experience from other states with marriage equality has shown that there has been a positive economic impact.
Isn’t this redefining what marriage means?
No. This allows all committed Washington couples access to a civil marriage license. Marriage as a legal institution will be not be altered, nor will the definition of religious marriage held by different faiths.
Isn’t this creating “special rights” for gay and lesbian couples?
No. In fact, even with passage of this legislation, gay and lesbian couples married in Washington will only receive the state protections offered to married couples. They will still be denied most of the over 1,130 federal protections currently enjoyed only by heterosexual married couples.
Discrimination is never acceptable and there is never a better time to end it than “right now”. Public attitudes are changing, and Washington should be on the front of that curve, not lagging behind. We’ve been leaders in granting gay men and lesbians equal protection in housing, employment, financial transactions, and public accommodation. Now is the time to add marriage equality to that list.
Isn’t this a stepping stone toward polygamy and incestuous relationships?
No. The legislation clarifies that marriage is a “civil contract between two persons” and that it is not lawful for a person “to marry his or her sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew”.
What about current Washington domestic partnerships?
Registered Washington domestic partners will have two years to convert their partnership to marriage by obtaining a marriage license, or dissolve the partnership. After two years, any domestic partnership that is not in the process of legal dissolution will automatically convert to marriage by operation of law.
How will domestic partners know that they need to convert their domestic partnership to marriage?
The Secretary of State is required to provide two separate notices to all registered domestic partners: once within 60 days of the effective date of the act, and again 60 days prior to the domestic partnerships automatically converting to marriage.
What about domestic partnerships where one member is over the age of 62? Will those relationships be automatically converted to a marriage after two years?
No. Registered domestic partnership where one person is over the age of 62, regardless of the genders of the parties, will not be converted to marriage and will still be recognized as domestic partnerships. They will still have the option of getting married.
Will the fees and paperwork previously filed by domestic partners cover their marriage license?
No. Domestic partners that choose to obtain a marriage license are required to go through all usual requirements, including payment of fees, solemnization and witnesses.
Will the time that couples have been registered domestic partners still be recognized for legal purposes once they get married?
Yes. For computing legal benefits and responsibilities (custody, property, pensions, etc.), the legal date of the partnership is the date the original domestic partnership was registered.
Will Washington State’s marriage law recognize out-of-state civil unions/domestic partnerships?
If a couple is from another state or country and have a legally recognized civil union/domestic partnership relationship that is substantially equal to Washington’s domestic partnerships, their relationship will be recognized in Washington. Couples moving to Washington with an out-of-state civil union/domestic partnership have one year after becoming permanent residents to become married. If they don’t marry during that period, then their relationship will not be recognized.
Fact Sheet: Washington United for Marriage
Washington United for Marriage is a coalition of organizations, congregations, unions, and businesses working together to secure civil marriage for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples.
History and Structure
Washington United for Marriage is a Political Action Committee (PAC) and a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, formed in October 2011. The coalition has seven leading organizations, 10 paid staff including management, field and finance staff in addition to several lobbyists and in-kind staff members.
Why Marriage | Why Now
People from all walks of life, including gay and lesbian couples, share the same values of love, commitment and family - and a majority of Washingtonians support these couples getting married and building their families. As we face the current economic challenges together, no family should be confronted with additional burdens to care for their loved ones. Especially during this time of hardship, we should be doing everything we can to make all Washington families stronger.
Coalition’s Leading Organizations
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization devoted to protecting the civil liberties of all people in America and extending rights to groups that historically have been denied equal treatment. The ACLU works through the courts, state and local government and public education to advocate for fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and is dedicated to securing the right for all people to marry the partner of their choice.
Equal Rights Washington (ERW) is a statewide political advocacy organization that works to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and families in Washington State. ERW has a network of over 50,000 advocates statewide. Working in coalition we have achieved a variety of major successes including the passage of the Anderson Murray Anti-discrimination Law, three domestic partnership laws, anti-bullying legislation and bills to protect transgender Washingtonians.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. HRC seeks to improve the lives of LGBT Americans by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace, ensuring families are treated equally under the law and increasing public support among all Americans through innovative advocacy, education and outreach programs. HRC works to secure equal rights for LGBT individuals and families at the federal and state levels by lobbying elected officials, mobilizing grassroots supporters, educating Americans, investing strategically to elect fair-minded officials and partnering with other LGBT organizations.
Legal Voice is a non-profit women’s rights organization that pursues justice for all women and girls in the northwest through ground-breaking litigation, legislative and administrative advocacy, and educational tools to help individuals understand their legal rights. Legal Voice operates from the conviction that all women and girls have these five fundamental rights: to decide when and how to form and maintain their families; to equal treatment and to be free from discrimination; to be safe wherever they are; to economic equality and independence; and to be healthy and active.
Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization educating Alaska, Idaho, and Washington State residents and policy-makers about reproductive health issues. Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest lobbies, educates, and participates in limited electoral activities to advance Planned Parenthood's mission.
SEIU Washington State Council coordinates legislative and political affairs for the over 100,000 workers represented by SEIU locals throughout Washington State. Our locals are organized along the following industry lines to focus and consolidate our members’ power: Healthcare, Long-Term Care, Education and Public Service, Property Services and Healthcare and Property Services.
UFCW Local 21 is the largest private-sector union in Washington, with over 38,000 members working in grocery store, retail, health care, and other industry jobs. UFCW 21 is a chartered member of UFCW International with over 1.4 million workers in North America. We believe in the promise of America. A promise that our children can lead better lives than ours. A promise that with hard work and standing up for our rights, we can make a decent living that includes a good wage, health care, and retirement.
- American Civil Liberties Union Washington
- ACLU WA
- Anti-Defamation League
- APACE Asian Pacific Islanders for Civic Empowerment
- Asian Pacific Islander Coalition
- Bethany United Church of Christ
- Cascade AIDS Project
- Catholics for Equality
- Children's Alliance
- Congregation Beth Israel
- Entre Hermanos
- Equal Rights Washington
- Equity Foundation
- Faith Action Network
- First Congregational United Church of Christ Vancouver
- First Fridays Yakima
- First United Methodist Church of Seattle
- Freedom to Marry
- Gay City Health Project
- Greater Seattle Business Association
- Greater Spokane Progress
- Human Rights Campaign
- Ingersoll Gender Center
- Inland Northwest LGBT Center
- Japanese American Citizens League - Seattle Chapter
- Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle
- King County Bar Association
- Lambda Legal
- Legal Voice
- Lesbian and Gay Child Care Task Force
- Lifelong AIDS Alliance
- Main Street Alliance of Washington
- Marriage Equality USA
- Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council, AFL-CIO
- Mid-Columbia Pride
- NARAL Pro-Choice Washington
- National Coalition of Jewish Women – Seattle Section
- National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
- National Women's Political Caucus of Washington
- Northshore United Church of Christ
- Oasis Youth Center
- Odyssey Youth Center
- OLOC - Old Lesbians Organizing for Change - Puget Sound Chapter
- One America
- Out & Equal
- Partners Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples
- Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane
- PFLAG Bellevue/Eastside
- PFLAG Benton Franklin
- PFLAG Walla Walla
- PFLAG Washington State Council
- Pierce County AIDS Foundation
- Planned Parenthood Votes! Northwest
- Pride at Work
- Pride Foundation
- Religious Coalition for Equality
- Seattle Gay News
- Seattle Office for Civil Rights
- SEIU Healthcare Local 775NW
- SEIU State Council
- Senior Services
- Shalom United Church of Christ
- Tacoma Rainbow Center
- Temple De Hirsch Sinai
- UFCW Local 21
- Union For Reform Judaism
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane
- Vista Youth Center
- WA State Holocaust Education Resource Center
- Washington Bus
- Washington Community Action Network
- Washington State Jewish Democratic Caucus
- Washington State NOW -- National Organization for Women
- Washington State Psychological Association
- Women's Funding Alliance
- YWCA of Pierce County