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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 11, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 37
A victory in the continued fight for LGBT equality in Washington state
Department of Health reissues death certificate naming Legal Voice client surviving spouse of deceased partner
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A victory in the continued fight for LGBT equality in Washington state
Department of Health reissues death certificate naming Legal Voice client surviving spouse of deceased partner

Though Washington state affirmed same-sex couples' right to marry in 2012, the ripple effect of this year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges has resulted in significant victories for LGBT Washingtonians. Legal Voice recently secured one such victory for Joe Krumbach, who has fought since 2013 to obtain legal recognition of his marriage to his deceased husband, Jerry Hatcher.

After 14 years together, Joe and Jerry had a religious marriage ceremony in Seattle in 2003. Jerry, a decorated veteran, passed away in 2008. Because Washington had an unconstitutional law on the books that prohibited marriages of same-sex couples when Jerry died, his death certificate did not indicate that he and Joe were married.

Last year Joe asked the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to issue an amended death certificate for Jerry that indicated the couple was married, but the agency denied his request on the grounds that the state did not permit same-sex couples to marry when Jerry died.

Legal Voice intervened on Joe's behalf, arguing that the couple's religious marriage in 2003 must be recognized as a valid marriage in light of the Obergefell decision. The DOH agreed with the arguments, and has issued an amended death certificate correctly indicating that Jerry and Joe were married. Legal Voice is now advocating for Joe to receive benefits that are available to spouses of deceased veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Joe is not alone in his fight for true marriage equality: a woman in Pennsylvania and a man in Texas recently obtained recognition of their marriages to their deceased partners in their pursuit of emotional closure, benefits, and respect.

'Every journey starts with a step, and I made that first step,' said Joe Krumbach. 'What matters now is the people behind me, the people who will benefit from this.'

Legal Voice is a nonprofit women's rights legal organization that pursues justice for all women and girls in the Northwest through ground-breaking litigation, legislative advocacy, and educational tools to help individuals understand their rights. www.legalvoice.org.

Courtesy of Legal Voice
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