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What's the Difference between Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions?

What's the Difference between Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions?

Domestic partnerships and civil unions are both legally recognized interpersonal relationships. The Buzzle article below will explain to you the difference between a domestic partnership and a civil union.
Buzzle Staff
Fast Fact
According to a law established in New Jersey in December 2006, civil unions were available only to same-sex couples and replaced domestic partnerships, which were in the picture since the January, 2004. This law stated that the concept of a civil union automatically terminates a domestic partnership. It also prevented the formation of new domestic partnerships, with an exception for heterosexual people above 62.
There has been a multitude of discussions, confusions, and controversies about the concepts of civil unions, domestic partners, common law marriages, and same-sex marriages. While the law distinguishes between the terms, people are still confused with regards to the identification and benefits under each legal entity. Also, the fact that the laws are different in different states as it is with various jurisdictions, adds to the confusion, which ultimately leads to people developing a phobia for their identity, their relationship status, and to declare themselves openly. The domestic partnership vs. civil union article below will outline the difference between these two terms.
Civil Union
  • They are also known as registered partnerships or civil partnerships.
  • The civil union definition states that it is a legally recognized relationship that is similar to marriage.
  • That said, it is not exactly a marriage in the true sense of the word, i.e., there is no religious ceremony involved in the eyes of the law.
  • The entity gives benefits that are almost similar to those offered to a married couple.
  • This extends to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
  • It is not offered in all the states, and even in the ones where it is offered, the benefits vary.

Domestic Partnership
  • The meaning of domestic partnership is camouflaged in the words - it is a situation where partners share a domestic life.
  • It could be termed as a live-in relationship, except that it has a legal status.
  • There is no binding, no ceremony, nothing. It is solely a situation where couples live together, and are not married.
  • It is different from other interpersonal relationships in the sense that it offers legal benefits.
  • Again, it is not similar to a marriage or civil partnership, therefore, the benefits are considerably lesser.
  • Like a civil union, however, it is not offered in all states, and the benefits vary with the law as well.
  • Reportedly, this entity is also applicable to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Factors of Differentiation

Civil Union Domestic Partnership
It is a legal union that provides almost all the benefits that a married couple gets. In some states, civil unions have been declared to be converted to same-sex marriage (when required). It is also a legal union, but it offers far lesser benefits and no federal protection.
As of 2014, it is recognized in Hawaii, Delaware, Illinois, Colorado, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. As of 2014, it is recognized in Maine, Maryland, Hawaii, Colorado, California, Washington, Wisconsin, district of Columbia, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oregon.
Benefits vary with states and exist only within the confines of the state. Common benefits for civil unions include:

● State tax benefits
● Mutual responsibility
● Child support
● Child custody
● Medical decisions
● Co-parenting
● Inheritance
● Equal property division
● Health insurance
● Joint credit
● State-level spousal rights
● Leave privileges to care for the sick partner
It has fewer benefits and varies statewise as well. Some of them include:

● Right to take medical decisions
● Common residence
● Step-parent adoption procedures
● Health care coverage
● Inheritance
Registration requirements vary as per state laws. You need to sign the civil partnership document. You will need a Registrar and witnesses. You have to be an adult and you need to contact and submit all your details to the registrar office. If you or your partner is subject to immigration control, you will be subject to some special rules. You will also have to pay a fee for registration. You will receive a civil partnership certificate after the application has been processed and legally registered. Again, it is differently interpreted in different states. Commonly, the couple should be more than 18 years of age, should not be related by blood, should not have been in a similar relationship at least for 6 months prior, etc. You need to pay a stipulated registration fee, apply to the City Clerk office, and present all the original documents.

Points to Remember
  • Benefits available at state level are subject to federal taxation.
  • Tax or immigration benefits are not provided, neither is any federal protection.
  • Many domestic partnership registries offer no rights. Check carefully.
  • Wisconsin is the first state to establish a domestic partner registry.
  • Contact an attorney during registration.
  • Registered domestic partners in Maine are entitled to donate organs as well as make the funeral and burial arrangements.
  • Connecticut was the first state to establish civil unions without court orders.
The laws stated above, as mentioned earlier, are granted different benefits under different states. They do not hold recognition in all states, and even in the ones that do recognize them, murky controversies have been created. Many couples have been known to use these laws to escape the commitment of marriage, avoid paying the federal tax, retain benefits, etc. The fact that they are not valid in certain places makes way for couples to find loopholes, since they face innumerable difficulties. Efforts are being made to establish these laws in all states. After all, if we have to fear and live in the country, how can democracy be justified? That said, there is another point to be taken note of: However you are, it is your life, and your identity is your right. But to disobey the established laws is neither your right, nor is it right.