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Without Saying 'I Do,' Thousands Of Washington Couples Set To Get Married

Courtesy of Jennie Laird and Elisa Gautama

There will be no wedding band, no ceremony or awkward toasts. But on June 30, up to 4,000 same-sex couples in Washington are set to be married – without ever uttering the words, "I do."

Monday is state’s deadline to automatically convert most domestic partnerships to marriages, as stipulated by the 2012 law that legalized same-sex marriage in Washington state.

The voter-approved marriage law offers similar benefits and rights as domestic partnership, so the state is phasing out that option for gay and lesbian couples. However, the state will continue to offer domestic partnerships in cases where one partner is 62 or older, regardless of gender, because seniors risk losing certain retirement benefits if they marry.

A week ahead of the deadline, 6,618 couples were still registered as domestic partners. The Secretary of State’s office estimates about 2,000 couples include senior citizens, and the rest will be converted to marriages. (The state is still processing paperwork and expects some of the domestic partnerships to be canceled.)

This looming deadline has spurred many couples into action, including Jennie Laird and Elise Gautama of Seattle. They’ve been together 18 years, but Laird says when it came to their wedding, they wanted to choose the date.

“I don’t think either one of us wanted to wake up one morning and just be married after waiting so long,” Laird said.

The couple got married in late May. Before deciding to tie the knot, Laird said she and Gautama considered some potential drawbacks, such as a higher tax payment and jointly taking responsibility for one partner’s hefty student debt.

But Laird said the benefits of marriage clearly outweighed any concerns, and they were both overjoyed to celebrate at their wedding with friends and family.

“We didn’t know how much it would mean to us until we did it,” Laird said.  “It was just great, and overwhelming.”

Laird said there is one small thing they would like to carry over from their domestic partnership: The official card the state gave them as legal proof of their relationship. It helped them out a few times.

“They don’t give you a card when you get married," Laird said. "So we’re thinking, ‘Should we carry our marriage license around?’ We’re not sure.”

Year started with KUOW: 2006