Our guide to tying the knotby James Whitely – SGN Staff Writer
Well, our long struggle has finally ended. We’ve won marriage equality in Washington state. Now, many in our community are surely wondering how, exactly, they should go about getting hitched. Here’s a brief guide, based on our own interviews and research, to the who/what/where/when/why of same-sex marriage. (Please note that this article is not intended as legal advice.)
Marriage ceremonies can be performed by a licensed or ordained religious official, court commissioner, or judge. Remember that the law does not require any church official to perform a same-sex marriage.
There is a fee to acquire a marriage license, which varies by county. In King County, the fee is $64.
A marriage license can be purchased from any county, usually at the county auditor’s office (in King County, this office is known as the Recorder’s Office). You are not required to purchase the license from the county where you live or plan to hold the marriage ceremony – anywhere in Washington is fine. Visit http://access.wa.gov/living/resources/marriage.aspx for a list of offices that issue marriage licenses.
‘The Governor and the Secretary of State will certify the election results. Once the election results are certified, the law will go into effect at midnight on the sixth [of December],’ State Rep. Jamie Pedersen told SGN.
This means that on Thursday, December 6, 2012, same-sex couples will be allowed to apply for marriage licenses. Since state law requires all couples, same-sex or otherwise, to wait three days after obtaining a marriage license before having their wedding, the first day ceremonies can be held is December 9. Under no circumstances can the three-day waiting period be waived.
In King County, the marriage license becomes valid for use on the third day and is then valid for 60 days. The wedding must take place within the 60-day period or you must purchase a new license.
King County Executive Dow Constantine will open the King County Recorder’s Office at 12:01 a.m. on December 6, immediately upon certification of the November election, to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
‘I don’t want couples to wait a minute longer than legally necessary to get the rights that voters have recognized,’ said Constantine, who will personally sign the first marriage licenses at 12:01 a.m.
Be advised that King County is expecting a huge demand for marriage licenses, so be prepared to wait in line, especially if you go during the first few days.
Superior Court Judge Mary Yu is already booked to officiate a ceremony at 12:01 a.m. on December 9 – possibly the first same-sex marriage in the state.
‘I feel honored and privileged to be officiating over same-sex marriages, since I have always enjoyed officiating at weddings – it’s one of the happy things we do as judges! Of course, as a member of the LBGT community, I feel particularly honored and proud. I do not know if my 12:01 a.m. wedding is the first in Washington – it may be the first in King County. I am getting a number of requests especially from couples where I have presided over adoption hearings involving their children,’ Judge Yu told SGN.
The judge’s bailiff, Takao Yamada, said they’ve already received requests for ceremonies as far out as November 2013.
Lastly, the King County Marriage Licensing website offers a nifty little timer, the ‘Marriage Equality Countdown,’ at www.kingcounty.gov/marriage.
WHY (for domestic partners and out-of-state folks)
Here’s where things get a bit complicated. If you’re already in a registered domestic partnership with the person you plan to marry, you will need to apply and pay for a marriage license and go through the ceremony, like all other couples. Once you are married, your domestic partnership is officially dissolved.
Please note that all same-sex registered domestic partners in the state will receive two notices in the mail from the Secretary of State’s office, explaining much of the information below. The first notice will be sent within 60 days of the date of the election certification on December 6.
It is important to understand that unless one partner is 62 years of age or older, your domestic partnership will be altered or dissolved on June 30, 2014. This is because R-74 phases out domestic partnerships except for senior couples. One partner must be 62 years of age or older on June 30, 2014, to retain the domestic partnership.
If neither partner will be 62 on that date, here are your options:
(1) You can apply for a marriage license on December 6 like everyone else and proceed with your marriage after the three-day waiting period.
(2) You can wait until June 30, 2014, when the state will automatically convert non-senior domestic partnerships into civil marriages.
(3) You can dissolve your domestic partnership altogether and start from scratch. Note that if you are registered and become married, your civil marriage date will be the date of your original domestic partnership. So if you want your ‘official’ anniversary to be the actual date of your marriage, choose this option.
If you were married in another country or state, Washington will recognize your marriage, provided the marriage was legally recognized in the state or country where you married.
There is no residency requirement to marry in Washington, so if you live in another state, you can get married here. Be aware, however, that if same-sex marriage is not legal in your home state, your marriage may not be recognized there. Also be advised that while Washington has no residency requirement for marriage, it does have one for divorce. It is a very good idea for out-of-state couples planning on marrying in Washington to talk to a lawyer first.
If you are in a civil union or domestic partnership in another state and the civil union or domestic partnership gives substantially the same rights and responsibilities as a marriage, then you have the same rights and responsibilities as a married couple while in Washington. If you and your partner become residents of Washington, you will have to get married unless one of you meets the above age requirement.
So that’s it in a nutshell. Congratulations from SGN! The King County Recorder’s Office is located in the King County Administration Building at 500 4th Ave. in downtown Seattle. The Recorder’s Office will remain open on December 6, until 6:30 p.m. It will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, December 7, and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 8. To save time at the office, the county is asking applicants to print and fill out their application form in advance. The form is available at www.kingcounty.gov/marriage.
You’re invited to contact THE WEDDING GENTLEMEN by phone at 425.770.9243, complete the online contact form, or email me to schedule a free consultation. Also, visit the “LGBT” pages on this website to see the Dec. 9th LGBT Wedding Specials!!
You can have your ceremony, your way, and I can help!