Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
The repercussions of Washington's historic vote on R-74 and same-sex marriage are just beginning to take shape. And one of the ways the new marriage equality law will likely be felt is in the state's marriage and divorce certificates, which currently use gender-specific terms like bride, groom, husband, and wife.
According to the State Department of Health, a proposal to do away with these gender-specific terms is in the works, with a public hearing on the matter scheduled for Wednesday.
According to a press release from the Department of Health:
The department collects records of all people who marry or divorce in Washington, and issues copies of records to the public. Current forms use gender-specific terms, including bride, groom, husband, and wife. State health officials propose using gender-neutral terms on certificates. The proposal includes identifying the gender of couples on the certificate form, so the public will have information about the number of same-sex couples in Washington.
Tim Church, the Department of Health's Communications Director, tells Seattle Weekly the proposal has been in the works since before voters approved R74, in anticipation of the new law, and the goal is to have updated marriage and divorce certificates available by Dec. 6, when the law takes effect. In place of the terms "bride" and "groom," Church says the new forms may include the descriptors "Spouse A" and "Spouse B".
"We filed for the rule change prior to the vote [on R74]," says Church. "We wanted to start the process in case [R74] was approved. Right when the law was approved we opened up the public comment period."
As the press release notes, people will have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 28 to provide feedback on the suggested change - in person at the hearing scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday in Tumwater, or via email and good ol' fashioned snail mail. After all the feedback is collected (Church says there have been three comments submitted so far), program staff will pore over it and a final decision will be made.
"We just wanted to have an open, public process," says Church of the proposed changes.