Washington state has been a draw for LGBT people in recent years as many have moved to Seattle and other cities due to the progressive stance the state has taken in regards to LGBT rights. Washington has been a leader in LGBT rights in many ways, including allowing domestic partnerships as early as 2007 and repealing its sodomy laws back in 1975.
Marriage and Spousal Benefits
While Washington didn’t legally recognize same-sex marriages until 2012, the state did begin providing benefits to LGBT partners of state employees in 2001. Unfortunately, a statute went into effect in 1998 defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and that law was upheld in 2006 in the Andersen v. King County case. As a work-around, in 2007 the state legalized domestic partnerships that were defined to be equal in all ways to the same-sex marriages and civil unions performed in other states, and those marriages and unions were also officially recognized in Washington.
On February 13, 2012, the governor signed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. However, opponents gathered enough support to put it to a vote of the people. It passed with 54 percent in favor in November 2012. On June 30, 2014, the law ordered all domestic partnerships to automatically change over to a marriage if not dissolved earlier.
In Washington, any adult can legally petition to adopt a child, regardless of their marital status. Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt jointly, and second-parent adoptions are also legal. The state has taken steps to outlaw conversion theory aimed at minors, but while the legislation passed the state House in 2014, the state Senate did not take action on the bill.
Anti-Discrimination and Hate Crime Laws
The state does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations are all covered. Hate crimes, including violence and “malicious harassment” are also on the books and protect LGBT citizens. Anti-bullying laws that protect LGBT students are also in effect.
Unlike some states where transgender people are often left out, Washington has passed several laws aimed at protecting their rights. The state has banned insurance exclusions for gender reassignment and other transgender health services. State employees have access to a number of transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits. The state also allows transgender people to change their sex on both their birth certificate and on their driver’s license or state identification card.