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Template:Civil union A civil union is a legally recognized union similar to marriage. Many people are critical of civil unions because they say they represent separate status unequal to marriage ("marriage apartheid").[1][2] Others are critical because they say civil unions allow same-sex marriage by using a different name.


The first civil unions in the United States were offered by the state of Vermont in 2000. The federal government does not recognize these unions, and under the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA), other U.S. states are not obliged to recognize them. By the end of 2006, Connecticut and New Jersey had also enacted civil union laws; New Hampshire followed in 2007. Furthermore, California's domestic partnership law had been expanded to the point that it became practically a civil union law, as well. The same might be said from 2007 for domestic partnership in Maine, domestic partnerships in District of Columbia, domestic partnership in Washington, and domestic partnership in Oregon.

Civil unions by state


Main article: Civil unions in Vermont

Civil unions have been legal in Vermont since a 2000 State Supreme Court ruling requiring that the state recognize same-sex couples on par with heterosexual couples however leaving to the legislature the choice of whether to legalize same-sex marriage or some other form of relationship recognition.

The legislature, under pressure from then Governor Howard Dean, opted for civil unions over marriage as a compromise measure. The act took effect on 1 July 2000. Recently, however, there has been a greater push for same sex marriage, and a same-sex marriage bill was introduced in the state legislature on February 9, 2007.[3]


Main article: Civil unions in Connecticut
See also: Same-sex marriage in Connecticut

In 2005, the Connecticut legislature became the first state in the United States to legalize civil unions without a court order. The law took effect on 1 October 2008. It was signed into law by Connecticut governor Jodi Rell. However, gay rights groups, pushing for further recognition, have introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage to the state legislature and have launched a lawsuit seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The governor has said she would veto the legislation.

New Jersey

Main article: Civil unions in New Jersey
See also: Same-sex marriage in New Jersey

After a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, the state has legalized civil unions. The ruling similar to the ruling in Vermont has required the state grant all the benefits given to heterosexual couples to homosexual couples as well. Prior to the ruling same-sex couples enjoyed a broad-range of benefits under the states domestic partnership law. The Civil Union Act took effect on 19 February 2007. Gay rights groups however have stated their dissatisfaction with the law and have promised to continue pushing for same-sex marriage in 2007 and 2008. The Governor, Jon Corzine, has indicated he would sign a same-sex marriage bill if passed.

New Hampshire

On April 4, 2007, the New Hampshire House passed a civil unions bill, HB437, with a vote of 243 to 129. The bill is designed to imbue partners in same-sex civil unions with the same "rights, responsibilities and obligations" as heterosexual couples in marriages in the state of New Hampshire.[4] On April 26, 2007, the New Hampshire Senate approved the civil unions bill 14-10 along political party lines. Governor Lynch signed the bill into law on May 31, 2007, making New Hampshire "the first state to embrace same-sex unions without a court order or the threat of one".[5] The civil unions law took effect on January 1, 2008.[6]

Domestic partnerships similar to civil unions


A California domestic partnership is available to same-sex couples and to certain opposite-sex couples in which at least one party is at least 62 years of age. When it became law on 22 September 1999, the domestic partnership registry entitled partners to very few privileges such as hospital visitation rights. The legislature has since expanded the scope of California domestic partnerships to afford many of the rights and responsibilities common to marriage. As such, it is now difficult to distinguish California domestic partnerships from civil unions offered in a handful of other states.


Main article: Domestic partnership in Washington

After a 2006 court ruling rejecting same-sex marriage, gay rights groups have vowed to push for same-sex marriage in the long-term and domestic partnerships in the short-term.

In March 2007, the bill passed the senate, and on April 10, 2007 the bill passed the state House of Representatives. The bill became law on April 21, 2007 when Governor Christine Gregoire signed it. The law took effect on July 22, 2007.


In 2004, voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Despite this defeat, gay rights groups have continued to push for civil unions in the state legislature. In trying to garner support for a civil unions bill, it was changed to a domestic partnership registry, although it still gave virtually all of the state level benefits as a marriage or civil union does.[7] In April 2007 the Oregon House passed the domestic partnership bill.

The bill passed the House in April 2007 and the House on May 2. It was signed by the Governor on May 9. The bill made Oregon the 9th state in the United States to give some level of recognition to same-sex couples. Although the law was to take effect on 1 January, 2008, it was delayed by court action. It took effect on 4 February 2008.

District of Columbia

Main article: Domestic partnership in District of Columbia

The Washington, DC domestic partnership law took effect on 11 June 1992, but was not funded by Congress until 2002. Both heterosexual and homosexual couples may register, and while benefits have increase over time, the benefits are specifically enumerated and are as extensive as those of marriage. There has been discussion about legalizing same sex marriage; however, Congress could prevent such a measure.

See also


  1. Corbin, Sherry (2004). Why Civil Unions Aren't Enough. Vermont Freedom to Marry. Retrieved on 2007-07-31.
  2. Barratt, Joseph. "Civil unions ‘social apartheid’, says Waring", Te Waha Nui online, Auckland (New Zealand) University of Technology School of Communication Studies, 2007-05-01. Retrieved on 2007-07-31. 
  3. H275 H275 Bill Status.
  4. N.H. House passes civil unions (2007-04-05). Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  5. State Senate approves civil unions for same-sex couples (2007-04-26). Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  6. Lynch signs bill legalizing civil unions (2007-05-31). Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  7. HB 2007 (PDF). Retrieved on 2008-05-29.