Domestic partners to become spouses June 30

In 2007, Gary Hatle and Lee Wyman were among the first Snohomish County couples to register with the state as domestic partners. Five years later, a Washington law gave them the green light to marry.

On Dec. 11, 2012, five days after the state’s same-sex marriage law took effect, they were married at Everett’s Trinity Lutheran Church.

The Everett couple have no major decisions to make this month. That can’t be said of many others in Washington who are registered as domestic partners.

Under the law approved by voters, domestic partnerships will automatically convert to marriages on June 30 — unless the partnership is dissolved, is in the process of being dissolved, or at least one partner is 62 or older.

“It was pretty widely discussed, and it was on the ballot. But it will still catch some people off guard,” said David Ammons, communications director for the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.

The Secretary of State’s Corporations Division keeps a registry of domestic partnerships. With the deadline looming, the state updates the numbers of active and terminated partnerships throughout each day. By Tuesday afternoon, there were 6,654 active domestic partnership registrations, and 1,237 had been terminated.

Because Hatle is over 62 — he’ll turn 70 next month — he and Wyman could have maintained their partnership if they hadn’t married. The law included the provision for seniors, regardless of gender, because of their risk of losing pension and Social Security benefits if they married.

After June 30, there will be no legal domestic partnership for younger couples — regardless of gender. The intent of the law was marriage equality. “We’re not going to have a special thing off to one side,” Ammons said.

Although Hatle and Wyman obtained a legal marriage license in Snohomish County and were wed in church, their names remain on the registry of domestic partnerships. Hatle said he thought county records would make it to the state. When he and Wyman got their marriage license in 2012, they checked a box indicating their domestic partnership would end.

Like all other registered domestic partners in Washington, they recently received mail about the law, about dissolving a partnership, and how to get an updated marriage certificate. Hatle didn’t bother to respond because he’s already married.

That’s not a problem for the Everett couple, said Pam Floyd, director of the Corporations Division for the Secretary of State. “A domestic partnership is null and void when they marry,” she said. County marriage license information eventually shows up in the state’s vital records, she said.

Under the domestic partnership law, Floyd said, a dissolution must go through the courts and includes a 90-day waiting period, just like a divorce. If a dissolution is pending, it won’t be converted to a marriage June 30.

The Department of Health is handling conversions using the Secretary of State’s data, Floyd said. Couples who will become newly married June 30 can request, for $20, a new Washington State Marriage Certificate.

Hatle may be surprised that his legal date of marriage isn’t the day he and Wyman were wed in church. For couples who registered as domestic partners in Washington, Floyd said, the legal marriage date will be when they registered — for Hatle and Wyman, that’s July 23, 2007. The marriage certificate will also include a place for the date and location of the ceremony.

Kokie Adams, a trust and estates lawyer with the Purcell &Adams law firm in Lynnwood, said the legal date of a marriage matters greatly if a couple decides to divorce. Issues could arise involving children, property, and even wages and retirement funds, she said. “Some same-sex couples may not be of that mindset yet — this is real,” Adams said.

Hatle said he and Wyman knew the legalities when they registered as domestic partners. He recalls saying to Wyman — half kidding, but half serious — “Do we still want to go through with this? It’s not one of those things you can just walk out of anymore.”

In the eyes of the state, they will soon be married seven years. In their hearts, it’s been a dozen years.

“That’s how long ago we made a commitment to each other,” Hatle said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

Many Washington state registered domestic partnerships will automatically be converted to marriages June 30. Find out more at: www.sos.wa.gov/corps/domesticpartnerships/

Information on marriage certificates for converted partnerships available at:

www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/422-107-CertificateMarriageForm.pdf

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