TN 13 (01-13)

PR 02712.053 Washington

A. PR 13-036 Request for Opinion -- Validity of Name Change Under Washington’s Same-Sex Marriage Legislation -- Reply

DATE: December 6, 2012

1. SYLLABUS

Accept marriage documents issued to same-sex couples for marriages that took place December 6, 2012 or later by jurisdictions (town, county or State) in the State of Washington as evidence of a name change.

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED

You asked for a legal opinion as to whether a Social Security Number (SSN) name change can be based upon the 2012 Washington Same-Sex Marriage legislation. Specifically, you asked,

  1. Whether Washington permits parties to a same-sex marriage to change their names based on the marriage;

  1. The date Washington will begin issuing marriage licenses and certificates to same-sex couples;

  2. Any change to the status of a prior or new domestic partnership entered into in Washington under the former domestic partnership statutes; and

  3. Whether a previously entered domestic partnership must be dissolved before entering a same-sex marriage.

BRIEF ANSWERS

  1. Washington will permit a party to a same-sex marriage to use marriage documents to change a driver’s license or identification card to reflect the party’s use of the spouse’s last name.

  2. Washington counties will begin issuing marriage licenses and certificates to same-sex couples on December 6, 2012.

  3. Existing same-sex domestic partnerships will be merged into and deemed marriages as of June 30, 2014, and new domestic partnerships are prohibited, unless at least one of the partners is at least 62 years old, and in the case of new domestic partnerships, the partners meet certain other requirements.

  4. Under the new legislation, the partners to a registered domestic partnership will not need to dissolve their partnership before entering a same-sex marriage.

ANALYSIS and CONCLUSIONS

  1. Washington will permit a party to a same-sex marriage to use marriage documents to change a driver’s license or identification card to reflect the party’s use of the spouse’s last name.

Washington’s marriage statute, before and after amendment by the 2012 Washington Same-Sex Marriage legislation, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239, Chapter 3, Laws of 2012 (S.B. 6239), is silent on the question of whether married persons may change their names based on the marriage. Wash Rev. Code §§ 26.04.080-90, 26.04.140-165; S.B. 6239. In Washington, married persons, like other adults, have the common law right to change their names. Doe v. Dunning, 549 P.2d 1, 3 (Wash. 1976) (citing Attorney General Opinion, Jan. 30, 1928); Attorney General Opinion 1985 No. 10. Persons entering a Washington marriage sign all marriage license documents, including the marriage certificate, with their legal names; the recorded marriage certificate does not reflect a name change. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 26.04.090, 26.04.160; see also http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/marriage/Namechanges.aspx (last visited December 4, 2012). After entering a marriage, a spouse may present a marriage certificate or license to the Washington Department of Licensing (WDOL) to obtain a driver’s license or identification card to reflect the spouse’s choice to use the other spouse’s last name. http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/marriage/Namechanges.aspx; http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/namechange.html (last visited December 4, 2012). The WDOL does not distinguish between same-sex and different-sex marriage certificates.

  1. Washington counties will begin issuing marriage licenses and certificates to same-sex couples on December 6, 2012.

http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/marriage/MarriageLicensingDec6-8.aspx (last visited December 4, 2012).

  1. Existing same-sex domestic partnerships will be merged into and deemed marriages as of June 30, 2014, and new domestic partnerships are not permitted, unless at least one of the partners is at least 62 years old, and in the case of new domestic partnerships, the partners meet certain other requirements.

Unless proceedings for dissolution, annulment, or legal separation are pending as of June 30, 2014, existing same-sex domestic partnerships in which neither partner is at least 62 years old are automatically merged into marriages