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Reminder: Many domestic partnerships converting to marriage ?>

Reminder: Many domestic partnerships converting to marriage

Dolliver with sign

Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her Corporations and Charities Division are reminding state-registered domestic partners that on June 30, the new same-sex marriage law will automatically convert roughly 6,500 state-registered domestic partnerships into marriage.

The division is sending a letter this week to nearly 7,500 active domestic partnership couples, including a copy and summary of the Marriage Equality Act of 2012, a letter from the Department of Health, a request for information with return envelope, and a sample of a certificate of marriage. The letter is being sent to same-sex domestic partnership couples, as well as those couples in which one partner is at least 62 years of age.

Wyman on why the letter is being sent:

“There are many same-sex couples registered with us who either aren’t aware that their domestic partnership will automatically switch to marriage, or they know about it but haven’t given it much thought. We don’t want any couples to be caught off-guard when their partnership is changed into marriage.”

The actual conversion will be done by the Department of Health. A copy of a marriage certificate can be ordered from DOH.

Corporations and Charities Division Director Pam Floyd, whose division includes the state’s domestic partnership program, said not all state-registered domestic partnerships will be converted. Those partnerships (more…)

Doe v. Reed: Appeals Court upholds R-71 petition releases ?>

Doe v. Reed: Appeals Court upholds R-71 petition releases

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to Washington’s policy of releasing initiative and referendum petitions, specifically the Referendum 71 signatures submitted to force a public vote on the “everything but marriage” law three years ago.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said he was pleased with the decision and that it honors the state voters’ commitment to the Public Records Act and transparency in government.  Reed said he hopes the challengers will let the decision stand, now that the U.S. District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in the state’s favor. Reed’s comment:

“We believe Washington residents expect open and accountable government, and it was the voters themselves who gave us our strong Public Records Act 40 years ago this year,” Reed said. “I am happy that disclosure of petitions has been without incident, and that the initiative and referendum process is alive and well, with no apparently ‘chilling’ of the process we hold dear.  I am glad that we are having civil debate this year over same-sex marriage and other difficult issues. We can disagree agreeably.”

This is the Centennial of the voters approving the initiative, referendum and recall process in Washington.

R-71 passed in 2009 with a 53 percent approval vote, upholding a new law the Legislature had passed for gay (more…)

R-71 petitions sealed as foes appeal ?>

R-71 petitions sealed as foes appeal

Protect Marriage Washington, which is appealing the Doe v. Reed ruling that upheld release of Referendum 71 petitions, has filed an emergency motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to halt further release of the petitions while the appeal proceeds.

The State Archives in the Office of Secretary of State already has released more than 30 sets of the 137,000 signatures, and has two more pending. But on advice of counsel, further releases are suspended until the court considers the emergency motion on Monday.  State Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office is preparing a brief today and James Bopp Jr. and attorneys for Protect Marriage Washington  have until the end of the day to submit a rebuttal.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said the state will ask the appeals bench to permit continued release of the records, noting that a number of CDs are already in public circulation following the state’s victory in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Protect Marriage Washington, part of a national movement opposed to same-sex marriage, sponsored R-71 in 2009 to force a public vote on a newly approved “everything but marriage” (more…)

R-71 petition challenge heads back to court in May ?>

R-71 petition challenge heads back to court in May

(UPDATED AT 12:25 p.m., Nov. 19 to show Eyman has dropped his state lawsuit.)

Protect Marriage Washington, gay-marriage opponents who sponsored a public vote on the state’s new domestic partnership law last November, have been given a May 31 trial date for their effort to ban public release of the 138,000 names of people who signed Referendum 71 petitions.

In the meantime, the names will remain sealed, under a ruling from the bench this week by U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called Doe v. Reed, ruled 8-1 on June 24 that, as a general matter, releasing petitions doesn’t violate signers’ constitutional rights. But the court also left open the possibility of narrower challenges to release of specific measures such as R-71.

As expected, that challenge is heading back to Settle’s court. He is the judge who originally blocked release of the petition sheets last fall, citing constitutional grounds. He was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, but now the “as-applied” challenge will commence this coming spring.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, represented by Attorney General Rob McKenna, continue to advocate for release of the signatures under terms of the broad voter-approved Public Records Act.  The referendum process is  citizen legislating and Washington voters expect the process to be open and transparent, not secret, Reed said.  The other side, represented by Indiana activist attorney James Bopp Jr., fears that disclosure would lead to harassment or intimidation of signers.

Every state with the initiative process, except for California, treats petitions as releasable public records.

R-71 petitions have not been released publicly, although a number of public records requests are pending.

In September, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks lifted his broad ban on release of initiative and referendum petitions, but R-71 was not included.

Bopp and attorneys for initiative activist Tim Eyman, meanwhile, dropped their broad challenge of the state’s policy of treating petitions as releasable public records.  Eyman said in a statement “We’ll continue to monitor the federal lawsuit and pursue other ways to counter this injustice.”

Voters upheld the “everything but marriage” expansion of domestic partnership benefits last fall, and the law went into effect last December. Benefits to gay couples and senior opposite-sex domestic partners accrue to people on the Secretary of State’s registry. As of today, that’s 8,231 couples.

R-71 sponsors renew bid to ban petition release ?>

R-71 sponsors renew bid to ban petition release

UPDATE:  The Friday hearing referred to by anti-gay marriage activists will not occur. The judge has temporarily dismissed their motion to ban release of R-71 petitions, but they can re-file the request after the U.S. Supreme Court officially returns the case to the U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Original post, with the new timing information added:

It’s back to court again, as foes of last year’s Referendum 71 renew a request that the petitions be sealed from public disclosure.

Protect Marriage Washington is  the group that forced a public vote last fall on the so-called  “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law. Now they’re asking the U.S. District Court in Tacoma to continue blocking release of the names and addresses of people who signed R-71 petitions. It’s not clear when the court hearing will be.  It was originally expected by challengers to occur Friday,  but the  judge has dismissed the request until he gets formal notice from the Supreme Court transferring the case back to his courtroom.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna will continue fighting for release under terms of the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called Doe v. Reed, ruled 8-1 on June 24 that as a general (more…)

R-71 records: McKenna, Reed head to Supreme Court ?>

R-71 records: McKenna, Reed head to Supreme Court

Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed hope to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the state’s strong voter-approved Public Records Act and the policy of allowing release of initiative and referendum petitions, as most states do.

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IMG_8379Reed, the state’s chief elections officer, is the respondent in the closely watched Doe v. Reed lawsuit that could affect how petitions are handled across America.  He and McKenna met with the press on Monday to describe the landmark nature of the case, and to express optimism that the state will prevail.  Oral arguments are on Wednesday of next week.  McKenna will spend this next week in D.C. preparing, and will be joined by Reed for the hearing.

A quick recap: foes of a newly passed “everything but marriage” law expanding domestic partner benefits mounted Referendum 71 to place the issue on last November’s statewide ballot. When some supporters of the new law announced plans to request copies of the R-71 petition sheets, Protect Marriage Washington secured a federal court order blocking the public (more…)

R-71 petitions: Attorneys press case to high court ?>

R-71 petitions: Attorneys press case to high court

In the run-up to the U.S.  Supreme Court’s April 28 hearing on public release of initiative and referendum petitions, the state is underscoring that the voter-approved Public Records Act requires release.  The public’s demand for transparency and accountability of the government is “compelling and substantial,” attorneys for the Secretary of State said in a brief submitted to the high court on Thursday.

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The thick 60-page brief is a reply to the efforts of Protect Marriage Washington (foes of the state’s new “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law) to block release of the petitions gathered last summer to force a statewide vote on broader rights for gay and senior partners.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and the state Elections Division, backed by the attorney general’s office, take the position that the Public Records Act adopted by the voters in 1972 requires the release of all public documents that are not specifically exempt. A number of groups and individuals have requested the names and addresses of the 138,000 voters

(more…)

Post R-71: Domestic partner registrations boom ?>

Post R-71: Domestic partner registrations boom

dpartners copyIn the months since Washington lawmakers expanded the state’s domestic partnership law, the popularity of the program has steadily risen, most notably in the past two months.

Officials of the state domestic-partnership registry in the state Corporations and Charities Division say that since the Legislature created the registry three years ago, the average weekly sign-ups have between about 35 or 40.  The registry is for gay and lesbian couples who maintain a household together, and for heterosexual domestic partners where at least one of the partners is 62 or older.

Last spring, lawmakers passed a broad expansion of the law. The measure, Senate Bill 5688, was dubbed “everything but marriage” and grants to registered domestic partners the same benefits and responsibilities that married couples have.  The law was on hold until voters could decide its fate. Opponents placed Referendum 71 on the November ballot; the law was upheld 53-47, making it the first voter-approved domestic-partnership program in the country.   A number of states either allow same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships.  U.S. District Court in San Francisco takes up the issue next week, considering California’s vote-approved ban on gay marriage.
(more…)

5 Questions with the Corporations Director ?>

5 Questions with the Corporations Director

pamfloydA new domestic partnership law goes into effect today. Pamela Floyd, Director for the agency’s Corporations and Charities Division, fills you in on how state domestic partnership registrations are impacted by the new law:

Q.) Domestic partnerships are registered with your agency’s Corporation Division. Now that the law is in effect, does the process stay the same?
The registration process stays the same. Domestic partnerships are still registered with our agency’s Corporations Division. Couples who want to register as domestic partnerships need to bring a Declaration of Domestic Partnership form, sign the declaration form in the presence of a notary public, and then submit the form and filing fee to us. Filings can be done either in-person at our Olympia office or by mail.

Q.) What changes does the new law bring to the process?
Terminations of domestic partnerships may no longer be filed at the Office of Secretary of State. All terminations must be done through the court system.  It also means that if members of a domestic partnership change their name or address, or one of the partners dies, they may file those changes with the Office of Secretary of State, using a form available at the Domestic Partnership Web site.

Q.) Your site says you have 6,546 registered partnerships as of today. How many of those are same-sex couples, and how many are partnerships where one person is 62 or older?
We do not ask for gender on the forms, so we don’t track whether it is a same-sex partnership or a senior partnership. We can only report the number of registrations we have filed with our office. You can search registrations by name at http://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/domesticpartnerships/

Q.) Does your office expect a boost in domestic partnership registrations, and if so, how are you planning to handle the increased amount of paperwork?

We do expect an increase in domestic partnerships and we have trained staff available to process registrations as received.  We also expect businesses and other state agencies, as well as partners,  to be contacting our office for verification or documentation of registrations. We are updating our Web search to include both registration and termination dates and we have staff available to provide certified copies of documents, if required.

Q.) Where do I go to learn more about domestic partnerships in Washington State?
Visit the Domestic Partnership page on the Secretary of State’s Web site to find out registration state laws related to domestic partnerships. We also recommend seeking licensed counsel for questions on legal rights and responsibilities.

Thurston judge OKs pause in Eyman lawsuit ?>

Thurston judge OKs pause in Eyman lawsuit

scalesThurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks has granted the state’s request to pause  further proceedings in initiative activist Tim Eyman’s court challenge of the Secretary of State’s policy of releasing initiative petitions under terms of the Public Records Act.

Hicks agreed with a motion brought by a senior official of the Attorney General’s Office, Deputy Solicitor General James Pharris, to put a hold on the Thurston County lawsuit while the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to review a federal lawsuit that raises a similar constitutional challenge to the disclosure policy.

The high court has been asked by foes of Referendum 71 to hear a challenge of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that recently upheld Washington’s practice of releasing petition sheets to comply with the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act.  The foes, calling themselves Protect Marriage Washington, obtained a district court order in Tacoma in September that temporarily stopped the state from releasing the R-71 petitions; the appeals court reversed it, saying the practice was perfectly constitutional.  In the meantime, Eyman and his partners got a similar order from Judge Hicks that temporarily expanded the ban to all initiatives and referenda. The full hearing hasn’t been set; it will probably take months to hear back from the Supreme Court on whether the R-71 petition case will be heard. (more…)