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Washington Domestic Partnership Law Having Legal Impact

November 23, 2009

Washington Domestic Partnership Law Impacts Employee Benefits and Family Leave
by Dennis Westlind
Stoel Rives LLP, Attorneys at Law

Washington voters recently approved Referendum 71, giving registered domestic partners all of the rights and responsibilities of married couples under Washington state law. Prior domestic partnership laws gave registered domestic partners limited rights and responsibilities such as hospital visitation, health care decision making, inheritance and community property rights. The new law includes all of the rights and responsibilities granted to married couples under state law.

Notably, the Washington State Insurance Commissioner has given notice that all insurance policies that include spouses will also be required to cover registered domestic partners. Washington employers and insurance providers should review the new law and existing policies and procedures to ensure compliance when the law takes effect on December 3, 2009.

More information, including verification of registered domestic partnerships, is available at the Secretary of State’s website.  Additional information on how R 71 may affect employee benefits and family leave laws is available as part of a recent Stoel Rives LLP Client Alert.

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hapypacy November 23, 2009

If they want all the rights, then they have to be ready for all the responsibilities. That is, they need to sign a legal document to legitimize the “partnership”. Only in doing so should they be given the (costly) benefits of a partner, i.e. medical insurance,etc. purchased by employer. AND, in doing so, if the “partnership” should end they will also have all the responsibilities required of them in the dissolution, i.e. separating of assets, etc. See if they are willing to put their money on the line, before/still requiring businesses to do so!

Bud November 23, 2009

My hope is that the law will be what it says and not turn into a lawyer frenzy.

lili November 23, 2009

This law creates a legal framework for relationships. One that is essential in society today were most couples join assets and provide essential elements of care. Without the formalities of legally defined legitimizations, the separation of assets, etc. is an enourmous cluster. Plenty of same-sex couples have already paid several times over for things like joint adoption, attestations of partnership, creation of power of attorney and wills, etc. I’m sure that formalized divorce rather than nothing will be welcomed. Same-sex couples have put their money on the line since day one and that isn’t going to stop just because they have the benefits of State recognized relationships.

JusMe November 25, 2009

hapypacy- what is the problem? WA’s new DP DOES require all the state responsibilites. Your tone suggests that these families would be less inclined than other families to take on the responsibility, and that will cost you in talent if it comes across to your employees. Don’t live in the dark ages. Same sex couples will have to register in more than one state if they want their rights to extend to more than one state. Do you have any idea what that means to them? They will have to separate in more than one state as well. Their separation process will actually be MORE costly to them while they are still getting FEWER protections and benifits in some states and no protections on the federal level. Lighten up, there’s no need to be bitter when your talking about the costs for these families. Its no more than you already pay for families headed by straight couples, so it appears to show considerable prejudice when you speak that way, and it only hurts you and your business.

JusMe November 25, 2009

Bud- So what are you suggesting? That marriage and divorce between straight couples has never been a lawyer frenzy? Or is your concern for the employers? Because if employers simply extend the exact same benefit packages to both couples with domestic partnerships as they do with couples that are married, then there will be no problem. Fourtune 500 companies have been doing this for years. You can even confirm the partnership on the Secretary of State website with ease. Try doing that with your employee that was married in Florida or New York or Oregon.

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