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March 6, 2012

Marriage Recognition Updates: Washington and Maryland

Both Washington and Maryland have recently enacted laws sanctioning same-sex marriage.  Following is a summary of these provisions.

Washington

On February 13, 2012, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed same-sex marriage legislation (SB 6239) which formally recognizes all marriages that would otherwise be valid in the State without regard to the sex of the parties. The law is effective June 7, 2012.

In order to enter into a marriage, the individuals must be at least 18 years old, not a party to another domestic partnership, civil union or marriage, not within a certain degree of kinship, and mentally competent at the time of the marriage.

As long as both partners to a state-registered same-sex domestic partnership in Washington are under age 62, the law includes a provision that automatically converts the domestic partnership to marriage as long as the parties have not initiated a dissolution, annulment or legal separation. For these relationships, the legal date of marriage is the date of the original state registered domestic partnership. This conversion will take place on June 30, 2014.

The domestic partnership law was further revised. Now, only couples (both same and opposite-sex) where one of partners is at least 62 years old may enter into a state-registered domestic partnership. Previously, same-sex partners could be under age 62. The minimum age to enter into a state sanctioned domestic partnership continues to be 18. This provision will take effect June 30, 2014.

The law also includes a provision allowing religious protection. Ministers, priests, imams, rabbis or other similar religious officials are not required to solemnize or recognize any marriage. For the purposes of this law, recognize means provide religious-based services delivered by a religious organization or employee of a religious organization that are designed for married or engaged couples and are directly related to solemnizing, celebrating, strengthening or promoting a marriage. Religious organizations can also refuse to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, services or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.  These organizations and individuals cannot be subject to civil liability or otherwise penalized for acting in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Maryland

On March 1, 2012, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012 (HB 438) which formally recognizes all marriages that would otherwise be valid in the State without regard to the sex of the parties. The law is effective January 1, 2013.

The Act includes a provision allowing religious protection. Religious officials are not required to solemnize or officiate any marriage or religious rite of marriage. Religious organizations, associations or societies or any organization controlled by a religious institution can also refuse to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs.   Religious organizations can also refuse to provide access to an individual to social or religious programs or services designed to promote marriage, if providing access would violate the entity’s beliefs, unless state or federal funds are received for the specific program or service. These organizations and individuals cannot be subject to civil liability or otherwise penalized for acting in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The Act also includes a provision that exempts fraternal benefit societies that are operated, supervised or controlled by a religious organization from being required to admit an individual as a member of the society or to provide insurance benefits to an individual if doing so would violate the society’s religious beliefs.

Finally, the law includes a provision that delays its effective date in the event that the law is challenged.

Benefit-related Effects of Marriage Recognition

It is very important to note the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized in both Washington and Maryland to opposite-sex married spouses are extended to same-sex married spouses.

Self-funded plans subject to ERISA are not subject to state law, and therefore, are not bound by these requirements.

The recognition of same-sex marriage in Washington or Maryland does not apply to federal law such as federal tax law, federal social security law, and federal level employee benefit laws, among others.

Table of Marriage Recognition in the States

Prior to the enactment of the Washington and Maryland laws, 12 other states and the District of Columbia recognized same-sex committed relationships. Below is a list summarizing the type of relationship recognized, including opposite-sex civil unions, and the effective date of each jurisdictional laws.

Type of Relationship Recognized as of March 1, 2012

 

Jurisdiction

Marriage

Same-Sex Civil Union

Opposite-Sex Civil Union

Effective Date

Connecticut

X

 

 

October 28, 2008

Delaware

 

X

 

January 1, 2012

District of Columbia

X

 

 

March 3, 2010

Hawaii

 

X

X

January 1, 2012

Illinois

 

X

X

June 1, 2011

Iowa

X

 

 

April 3, 2009

Maryland

X

 

 

January 1, 2013

Massachusetts

X

 

 

May 17, 2004

New Hampshire

X

 

 

January 1, 2010

New Jersey

 

X

 

February 19, 2007

New York

X

 

 

July 24, 2011

Rhode Island

 

X

 

July 1, 2011

Vermont

X

 

 

September 1, 2009

Washington

X

 

 

June 7, 2012

Special note about California: California recognizes marriages between same-sex partners that occurred between June 16, 2008 and November 4, 2008. The issue of same-sex marriage in California is currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

The information contained in this Benefit Beat is not intended to be legal, accounting, or other professional advice, nor are these comments directed to specific situations.

As required by U.S. Treasury rules, we inform you that, unless expressly stated otherwise, any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this Benefit Beat is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any person for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed by the Internal Revenue Service.

 

 

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