While we reported on The Daily Weekly earlier this week that the state Department of Health has a goal of having new-and-improved gender neutral marriage certificates available by Dec. 6 -- the first day same-sex couples can apply for them under the newly passed R74 -- as it turns out, many counties may be unable to make the transition fast enough to have the new certificates available for the expected rush of couples looking to get hitched ASAP.
While the new gender-neutral marriage certificates -- which will likely replace the terms "Bride" and "Groom" with "Spouse A" and "Spouse B" -- are expected to be finalized by the Department of Health by Dec. 6, according to the Seattle Times, "many counties, like King, will need several more days, or even weeks, to reprogram computer systems to generate these new certificates ..."
Tim Church, the Department of Health's Communications Director, told Seattle Weekly on Monday that a proposal to update marriage and divorce certificates with gender-neutral terms has been in the works since before voters approved R74, in anticipation of the new law. As part of the official procedure for such changes, currently the proposal is gathering feedback from citizens. Church said earlier this week that the Department of Health's goal is to have updated marriage and divorce certificates available by Dec. 6, when the law takes effect, but as the Times notes today, the pure logistics of making the new certificates available to the counties that will be responsible for doling them out is likely to cause a delay.
"We filed for the rule change prior to the vote [on R74]," Church told Seattle Weekly earlier this week. "We wanted to start the process in case [R74] was approved. Right when the law was approved we opened up the public comment period."
From today's Seattle Times:
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton, president of the Washington State Association of County Auditors, said the timeline means most counties won't have the new certificates in their system and ready to be issued for several days -- possibly even weeks -- after the law goes into effect.
In fact, even after the state transmits the new certificate to counties electronically, it will take time for them to reprogram their systems to generate new forms.
"County auditors simply won't have functional forms by the time they start issuing marriage certificates," Dalton said. "We'll have to run on the old form.
"But no matter what happens on Dec. 6, or what the language is, couples will get the paperwork needed to get married. And that's what's important."
My guess is, after being denied the right to marry for far too long, most Spouse A's and Spouse B's will agree with that sentiment.