February 22, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Navigating Washington's same-sex marriage law
Article provided by Law Offices of Gregory & Rooney, PLLC
Visit us at http://www.grrlegal.com/
The people of Washington took a progressive stance at ballot boxes this past November by voting to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Washington voters were provided with the chance to uphold or overturn a gay-marriage law that was passed by the state's legislature in early 2012.
After a close vote, Referendum 74 legalizing same-sex marriage was approved.
Recent changes to gay rights in Washington
The same-sex partnership laws in Washington have experienced many changes in the last few years. In 2007, the state began offering hospital visitation and inheritance rights to same-sex couples under the domestic partnership law. This law was expanded in 2009 into what was known as the "everything but marriage" law.
In early 2012, Washington's legislature passed a bill which expanded the existing domestic partnership law. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed the law in February of 2012. More recently, the public was provided the opportunity to vote on this bill and could either approve or reject it through Referendum 74.
The bill was approved by 54 percent of voters in the state. Washington now joins six other states, along with the District of Columbia, in recognition of same-sex marriage.
Details of Referendum 74
Referendum 74 allows same-sex couples to marry. The bill requires extension of laws that provide rights to husbands, wives and any other term used to refer to heterosexual, married couples to provide these same rights to married same-sex couples. The law also converts most existing domestic partnerships into marriages after 2014.
Although the law extends most rights to same-sex couples, there are some exclusions. The law does not require religious organizations to "perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony." The law also does not change the licensing process for religious organizations that provide adoption, foster or child placement services.
Additional limitations continue to exist at the federal level. Federal law continues to bar recognition of same-sex couples under DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. As a result, homosexual couples often do not have access to government benefits such as retirement benefits and health insurance.
Navigating the new and often changing same-sex laws in Washington can be difficult. In addition to balancing state laws, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely review DOMA in the near future. This could potentially change whether federal benefits can be available to homosexual couples. As a result, if you are entering into or ending a same-sex marriage it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced same-sex domestic relations attorney to help ensure your legal rights are protected.---
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