Effective December 6, 2012, the state of Washington legally recognizes marriage as a union of two persons, regardless of gender. Any gender-specific terms in a state statute, rule, or other law affecting the rights of spouses must be construed to be gender neutral.
The new law may have little practical effect on employers in Washington because the state's existing domestic partnership law requires that domestic partners have all the same rights, obligations, and legal responsibilities as married heterosexual couples.
Effect on same-sex domestic partnership. A state-registered domestic partnership is dissolved by operation of law when the parties marry each other. Any state-registered same-sex domestic partnership automatically becomes a marriage effective June 30, 2014. For purposes of determining legal rights and responsibilities, the date of the original state-registered domestic partnership is the legal date of the marriage.
Reciprocity. A legal union other than a marriage that is validly entered into in another jurisdiction is recognized as a marriage in Washington if it:
• Is substantially equivalent to a marriage under Washington law,
• Is not prohibited or unlawful under Washington law, and
• Does not meet the definition of domestic partnership (WA Rev. Code Sec. 26.04.020).
However, if the individuals become permanent residents of Washington, they must be married in Washington within 1 year after becoming permanent residents.