I know that a lot of people are trying to understand what changes have been made to Washington State Domestic Partnerships.
There is an already existing plain language guide to the first wave of DP rights and responsibilities in our state available from the Northwest Women's Law Center web site. I know there are working on an update and as soon as it's available I'll add the link here.
If you are already in a DP you can expect to get notification about the changes to the rights and responsibilities for your Domestic Partnership both 60 days and 30 days prior to the law taking effect on June 12th 2008.
Until either of those things happen, I've extracted this list from the Senate Bill Report for 2SHB 3104 for your enlightenment and edification:
Summary of Bill:
Rights and Responsibilities. Rights and responsibilities granted to spouses in various areas of law are extended to state registered domestic partners. The amended statutes generally involve: dissolutions; community property; estate planning; taxes; court process; service to indigent veterans and other public assistance; conflicts of interest for public officials; and guardianships. The following is a list of the broad categories and a summary description of some of the changes made in each category.
Dissolution, Parenting Plans, Child Support. Procedures for dissolution apply to domestic partners. Child support, maintenance, and parenting plan obligations, and procedures for enforcing such orders, apply to domestic partners.
Community Property and Other Property Rights. Property of domestic partners are subject to community property, which applies from the date of the parties' registration. A domestic partner's property is obligated to family expenses and education of the children. The slayer statute prohibits inheritance by domestic partner perpetrator. Homestead may consist of property owned by domestic partners.
Judicial Process and Victim's Rights. A domestic partner may sue on behalf of the community, and contributory fault of a domestic partner is not imputed to the other domestic partner in civil actions. Testimonial privilege for spouses applies to domestic partners. A domestic partner is a "family or household member" for purposes of the domestic violence laws.
Taxes. Property assigned from one domestic partner to another under dissolution decree is exempt from real estate excise tax. Property tax deferrals for eligible persons, such as senior citizens meeting certain criteria, extend to the person's surviving domestic partner.
Public Officials. Appointed and elected officials must disclose financial affairs of domestic partners. Gifts received by an elected official's domestic partner are subject to public disclosure reporting requirements. A domestic partner of an elected official may not be a member of the State Commission on Salaries.
Public Assistance. The Department of Social and Health Services must consider hardship to a person's domestic partner, to the same extent hardship is considered for spouses, when filing a lien against a person's property as reimbursement for receiving medical assistance. Domestic partners who are residents in long-term care facilities or nursing homes may share the same room. An abused same-sex domestic partner is considered a "victim" for purposes of services provided by domestic violence shelters.
Veterans. State colleges and universities must waive tuition for domestic partners of deceased or disabled veterans if certain conditions are met. Services for honorably discharged indigent veterans, such as residency in veteran's homes, are available to veterans' domestic partners.
Guardianship and Powers of Attorney. Procedures under guardianship laws, including who is entitled to notice, apply to domestic partners of incapacitated persons. Domestic partners may file a petition to determine effectiveness of power of attorney.
Probate and Trust Law. Domestic partner not named in a will that was created before registration of the domestic partnership is an omitted domestic partner for purposes of intestate distribution. Letters of testamentary go to the surviving domestic partner to administer community property. Procedures under probate involving transfer of community property apply to domestic partners. The court may award a certain amount from the estate to decedent's domestic partner for purposes of family support and the award is exempt from creditors.
Notice to Registered Domestic Partners. Sixty days before the effective date of the act, and again 30 days before the effective date, the Secretary of State must send a letter to the mailing address of each registered domestic partner notifying the person that Washington's laws will change. The letter must state that persons who do not wish to be subject to the new rights and responsibilities must terminate their domestic partnership before the effective date of the act.
Termination of Domestic Partnership. To terminate a domestic partnership, a domestic partner must file a petition for dissolution in superior court and follow the same procedures applicable to dissolution of marriages. Once a month, the State Registrar of Vital Statistics must submit a list of persons who have dissolved their domestic partnerships to the Secretary of State. Parties may use a non-judicial termination process by filing a notice of termination with the Secretary of State if, at the time of filing notice:
- both parties desire that the domestic partnership be terminated, and both have signed the notice of termination;
- neither party has minor children, whether born or adopted before or after the domestic partner registration, and neither party is pregnant;
- the domestic partnership is not more than five years in duration;
- neither party has any ownership interest in real property, and neither party leases a residence (except a lease of a residence occupied by either party that terminates in a year, and does not include an option to buy);
- there are no unpaid obligations over $4,000 incurred by either or both parties after the domestic partnership registration, except for debts on a vehicle (this threshold amount will be adjusted for inflation every two years);
- the total fair market value of community property assets, minus any encumbrances, is less than $25,000 and neither party has separate property assets in excess of $25,000 (adjusted for inflation);
- the parties have executed an agreement establishing the division of assets and debts and have executed any documents to effectuate the agreement; and
- the parties waive any rights to maintenance by the other party.
A domestic partnership is no longer automatically terminated if the parties enter into a marriage recognized in this state with another person.
Reciprocity. A legal union, other than a marriage, from another state that is substantially equivalent to a Washington domestic partnership must be recognized in this state, regardless of whether it is called a domestic partnership.
It's not short, but it's a hell of a lot shorter than the 196 pages of the complete bill.
Of course, we know that we still fall very far short of all the rights we need and are entitled to. I look forward to the progress we can make in the next legislative session.