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Updated Friday, November 30, 2012 at 11:04 AM

State unveils its revised marriage certificate

By Lornet Turnbull
Seattle Times staff reporter

A revised marriage certificate with language options for both straight and gay couples was being distributed to county auditors late Thursday, hopefully giving them enough time to update computer systems so they can issue gender-appropriate forms on Dec. 6, when the state's new same-sex-marriage law takes effect.

The state Department of Health finalized language for the certificate on Thursday after auditors on Wednesday raised concerns that an earlier timeline for revising the document would mean they would have to issue old certificates that identify couples only as bride and groom.

"There has been a push to get this done quickly," Tim Church, spokesman for the health department, said Thursday.

The newly revised form reflects concerns raised during a public-comment period and a public hearing on Wednesday by some who wanted to keep the gender-specific terms bride and groom.

The revised certificate offers both gender-specific and gender-neutral terms, allowing each person to identify as either bride, groom or spouse. An earlier proposed version had options for only Spouse A and Spouse B.

"It was obvious a lot of people wanted to retain bride and groom, while giving other options they can choose from," Church said.

The changes are effective Dec. 6, when the same-sex- marriage law goes into effect.

The state's decision to send the revised document to auditors sooner rather than later gives counties more time to update their computer systems so they can issue an appropriate form.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton, president of Washington State Association of County Auditors, said auditors are now "working feverishly with their software vendors" to integrate the revised form into their system to meet the Dec. 6 date.

"I am cautiously hopeful that some counties will be issuing new forms on Dec 6," she said.

Recognizing that not everyone comes from a family with a mother and a father, the revised form also adds the word "parent" to sections that previously asked for the names of each spouse's mother and father.

Lornet Turnbull:

206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @turnbullL.


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