OLYMPIA — Gay and lesbian couples will start getting married in Washington state as early as Sunday, as the new state law allowing same-sex marriage takes effect this week.
Here’s a look at what happens this week as the law takes effect:
Signing ceremony: Secretary of State Sam Reed and Gregoire will officially certify the election and Gregoire will sign same-sex marriage into law at a ceremony this afternoon in Olympia. The law doesn’t actually take effect until Thursday, when gay and lesbian couples can start picking up their wedding certificates and licenses. Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that marriage certificates could be signed at a wedding or ceremony, making the marriage valid, is Sunday at 12:01 a.m.
Some counties started preparing earlier this year once the law was first passed by the Legislature, and some auditors will have extended business hours because of the expected increase in the number of couples seeking licenses starting Thursday. Vicky Dalton, the Spokane County Auditor, was designated as a point person for all of the counties on preparing for same-sex marriage. She said many counties, especially urban ones like King County, will see a sizeable increase in volume on Thursday and Friday, especially because they’ll see couples who want to get their licenses and certificates in advance of Dec. 12, for the novelty 12-12-12 anniversary date.
“People need to be prepared, in any county, to spend some time in line,” she said.
Walla Walla County plans normal hours of operation, an official in the Auditor’s Office said today.
The state Department of Health changed the language on marriage certificate and divorce forms. Secretary of Health Mary Selecky recently approved adding “spouse” to the existing language that includes “bride” and “groom” and couples can check a box to choose the term they prefer.
There are nearly 10,000 domestic partnership registrations with the secretary of state’s office. Most same-sex domestic partnerships that aren’t ended prior to June 30, 2014, automatically become marriages. Same-sex couples still have the option of filing as domestic partners up to and including June 29, 2014, but their partnerships will be converted to marriage on June 30, 2014, unless one of the partners is 62 or older.
From June 30, 2014 on, domestic partnerships, for both heterosexual and gay couples, can only be filed where one partner is 62 or older. That provision was included in the state’s first domestic partnership law of 2007 to help heterosexual seniors who don’t remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.