Domestic partnerships — the Washington state wrinkle

In Books, Crooks, and Counselors, I answered questions about common law marriage, pointing out that it could not be used by same-sex couples living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage as a way to establish a legal marriage. Likewise, domestic partnerships are not marriage. But now, as part of its same-sex marriage law, Washington State is about to convert some 10,000 registered domestic partnerships into marriage, effective June 30. According to this piece in the Seattle Times, Washington’s domestic partnership was available to same sex couples of any age and to heterosexual couples in which one partner was over 62 at the time of registration, as a way to provide many of the financial benefits of marriage.

Of course, not everyone in a d.p. will want to become married. No doubt some d.p.s have ended, but remain registered — ending one can be much like a divorce. The state is sending out notices, but some folks will have moved. And as the Seattle Times story points out, some will have legally married other people — only to find themselves unexpectedly illegally married, because of the conversion. Others may have moved to states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages, although an increasing number of states have now concluded that they must recognize marriages legally formed in another state, even if not legal to form in that state.

Can you envision a way to complicate your characters’ lives with this law?

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