OLYMPIA – Three years ago, the Washington State Legislature passed legislation to recognize same-sex marriage. However, there still exist obsolete or antiquated laws that don’t properly address same-sex marriages and state departments require clarity on how they should be handled, such as retirement accounts for state employees and their spouses. In addition, there are laws that don’t reflect recent changes in society, such as issues involving which spouse changes their name after getting married. State Representative Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, sponsored several bills to address these issues in the forms of HB 1034 and HB 1036. Both bills passed the House yesterday evening and will be sent to the Senate for its consideration.
“Marriage is a commitment between two people, but sometimes government gets in the way,” said Rep. Moeller. “These bills are meant to provide everyone the same equal access to marriage and all the benefits that come with it, whether it be something as simple as changing your last name, or receiving timely benefits in the event of a spouse passing away. I’m proud that the House stood up for equality for everyone.”
Currently, only brides are allowed to change their surname’s using a marriage certificate, while grooms must go through the courts to make the change. HB 1034 authorizes a process for surname changes for grooms to use a marriage certificate.
After same-sex marriage was legalized in Washington, previously registered domestic partnerships were converted to marriages after a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, the statute didn’t specify that these new marriages qualified for survivor status for Public Employees’ Retirement System Plans without waiting a year. HB 1036 corrects that technical error, allowing same-sex partners who were previously registered domestic partners to designate themselves a survivor beneficiary in the event of a partner’s death without requiring a year long wait.