State Laws and Legislation

Washington Marriage/Relationship Recognition Law

Licenses marriages for same-sex couples? No.

Honors marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions? No.
Washington law states: “Marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female who have each attained the age of 18 years, and who are otherwise capable. … Marriages in the following cases are prohibited: when the parties are persons other than a male and a female. … A marriage between two persons that is recognized as valid in another jurisdiction is valid in this state only if the marriage is not prohibited or made unlawful under subsection 1(c) of this section.” This law was upheld by the state Supreme Court in July 2006.

Any form of statewide relationship recognition for same-sex couples? Yes.
In 2007, the state Legislature passed a law establishing a domestic partner registry. Registered couples can, among other things, inherit a deceased partner’s property if he or she dies without a will, be named a representative to administer a deceased partner’s estate, visit a partner in the hospital on the same terms as a spouse, and receive the same power of attorney rights as a spouse. In 2008, the state Legislature passed a law expanding the rights and responsibilities provided to couples entering into a domestic partner registry. In 2009, the Legislature passed a further extension of the laws to essentially provide domestic partners all of the rights and responsibilities of married couples, to the extent not in conflict with federal law.

Citation:  Public Law Number 156, SB 5336 (2007); Public Law 139, HB 1637 (2008); ESSSB 5688 (2009). 

Washington Domestic Partners

Washington’s domestic partner registry law went into effect July 22, 2007. At that time, registered domestic partners were eligible for a limited set of rights, including inheritance without a will, power of attorney and hospital visitation on the same terms as a spouse. The  2008 extension of benefits covered issues such as property and rights during the dissolution of a relationship. In May 2009 the Legislature passed a third bill, signed by the governor, which granted domestic partners essentially all of the rights and responsibilities of married couples, to the extent not in conflict with federal law. The 2009 law was subjected to the referendum process and in November 2009, Washington residents voted to keep the law by a margin of 52.6% to 47.4%.

Expanded rights include:

  • improved sick leave;
  • disability coverage; and
  • expanded employer-sponsored health care coverage.

State law requires that to register as domestic partners, among other things, both partners must:

  • share a common residence;
  • not already be married or in a registered domestic partnership with someone else; and
  • be at least 18 years old if a same-sex couple (one partner must be at least 62 years old in an opposite sex couple).

To obtain the Declaration of Domestic Partnership form, visit a local municipal office or download a copy from the state website.

The legal information provided on this page is provided as a courtesy to the public. It is not designed to serve as legal advice. HRC does not warrant that this information is current or comprehensive.

Updated: Thu, February 26, 2009 - 12:00:18