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.