Same-sex marriage has been legal in Washington since the end of 2012.
If you are in a same-sex marriage and need legal help because you are getting divorced or have child custody and visitation issues, or if you need assistance with any other legal problem relating to your same-sex marriage, you should look for a Spokane family law attorney who has experience with this relatively new area of the law.
A Brief History of Same-Sex Marriage in Washington
In 1998, a Washington law was enacted that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. In 2006, the State Supreme Court upheld the law.
The tide started to turn the next year when the state recognized same-sex domestic partnerships. Then in February 2012, the governor signed a law legalizing same-sex marriages.
It did not go into effect right away because opponents of same-sex marriage put the question on the November ballot. Washington voters approved the legality of same-sex marriage and the new law went into effect in December 2012.
Many Washington Domestic Partnerships Converted to Marriage in 2014
The 2012 law not only legalized same-sex marriage but also had provisions stating that many same-sex domestic partnerships previously registered in Washington would be converted to marriages. That part of the law went into effect in June 2014.
The law applied to same-sex domestic partners where both partners were under the age of 62. Same-sex and heterosexual domestic partnerships where at least one partner was 62 or older were not converted to marriage, but the partners could choose to get married at any time.
Same-sex domestic partnerships from any jurisdiction other than Washington State were also not converted. Heterosexual domestic partnerships where both people were under 62 had not been legally recognized, so they could not be converted either.
Couples whose domestic partnerships were eligible for conversion to marriage should have been notified by the state before the conversions took effect in June 2014.
U.S. Supreme Court Case: Obergefell v. Hodges
In June 2015 a historic milestone was achieved when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges affirmed that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under the U.S.
Constitution. This meant that state laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional and that all states had to allow same-sex marriages.
Because Washington had already legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decision did not change Washington’s law.
However, the decision affected Washington’s same-sex married couples who travel or move to other states. Now their state marriage is legally recognized everywhere in the United States, including in states that had previously refused to recognize same-sex marriages.
That means same-sex couples married in Washington can travel out of state without having to worry that they will lose the rights they now enjoy, such as the right to visit their partner in the hospital should there be an accident while they are traveling.
In addition to the practical benefits, the Obergefell decision was a cause for exuberant celebrations in Washington State for its symbolic importance as a landmark ruling in the history of gay rights.
Spokane Family Lawyer for Same-Sex Couples
The blossoming of same-sex marriage created a need for legal services for same-sex couples. The issues stemming from the break-up of same-sex marriages and heterosexual marriages are often the same but can differ.
For that reason, if you are in a same-sex marriage and need a family law attorney in Spokane, you should look for someone who will be dedicated to your case and who has the knowledge and experience with same-sex marriage legal issues to find the best solutions to your legal problems.