Update: New marriage forms let you choose 'spouse'

Nov 26, 2012

Update from the Washington Department of Health:

Revisions to Washington’s marriage certificate to conform with the new same-sex marriage law gives couples a full range of options — gender-neutral or gender-specific terms. The new form has been sent to local auditors around the state. The form is effective December 6 when the law takes effect. Marriage certificates are filed after the marriage.

Secretary of Health Mary Selecky approved the rules-change to add “spouse” to the existing language that includes “bride” and “groom.” Couples can check a box to choose the term they prefer. The original proposed change was to replace “bride” and “groom” with “spouse,” but many public comments suggested providing optional language, and Selecky agreed. More than 100 public comments were taken in writing and at a hearing in Tumwater November 28.

The state health department collects records of all people who marry or divorce in Washington, and provide copies of records to the public upon request. Current forms use gender-specific terms, including bride and groom. The new form also adds space for gender, and adds the term “parent” to the words “mother” and “father” of the applicants.

Previous version of this story:

In light of voter approval of same sex marriage in Washington, the state is scrambling to change official marriage and divorce certificates to make them gender-neutral.

The current form you fill out when you get married in Washington asks for the names of the bride and groom. The proposed change from the State Department of Health would instead ask you to list Spouse A and Spouse B.

Spokesman Tim Church says the Health Department’s goal is to have the new terms in place by the time the first same-sex marriage certificate is issued on December 6th.

“It’s an important time in somebody’s life to get married and the last thing we want to do is get in the way by having to have them cross out bride and groom because the form doesn’t fit them," said Church.

But to be legal, the Health Department must take public comment on the proposed changes to the marriage and divorce forms. There’s a hearing in Tumwater Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 8 a.m. And the Health Department is taking comments on its website until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

One thing about the changes, while the certificates just list Spouse A and Spouse B, there’s also a line to list the sex of each spouse.  The Department says that will enable it to track the number of same sex couples getting married.