The world has undergone significant changes. Although previously, there has only been one kind of heterosexual union sealed by marriage, now the rules have changed. We live in a world where we have to differentiate among marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, etc. U.S. laws regulating the above-mentioned unions differ from state to state, and if a civil union is valid in one state, it may be invalid in another one. Do you want more information? Let us look.
According to some dictionaries, the civil union is:
”The legal status that ensures same-sex couples specified rights and responsibilities of married couples”
”A formal union between two people, of the same or of different genders which results in, but falls short of, marriage-like rights and obligations.”
Marriage vs. Civil Union
You love each other and have decided to marry. The marriage you are going to enter is approved by a state government. Regardless of the state where the marriage was entered, it should be recognized all around the world. Marriage gives legal grounds to the relationship and provides unique rights, protections, and obligations at both state and federal level for the couple.
When we talk about a civil union, it also has legal status providing many of the same protections as marriage does. It is noteworthy that these protections are only valid in a certain state, which has adopted civil union laws and regulations. In contrast, federal protection, for example, tax breaks, social security benefits, health care benefits, etc., are not available to couples in civil unions.
Thus, civil unions have the following characteristics:
- Civil union partners cannot call themselves married for legal purposes.
- They are not recognized under federal law.
- They are usually available only for same-sex couples and are different from civil marriage.
Benefits of Civil Union
Those states that have established civil union laws provide the same rights to civil union couples as to couples joined in marriage. A civil union has the following benefits:
- Inheritance rights to inherit from the deceased spouse.
- Leave to mourn for a spouse.
- Right to your spouse’s health insurance.
- Joint ownership of property, community property rights, etc.
- Joint state tax filings.
- Right not to testify against your civil union partner.
Civil Union in the Various States
It is important to mention that not every state has laws providing for a civil union. State legislatures decide whether to take up the case. Moreover, a civil union may have different definitions in different states. For example, in Illinois, a civil union is a legal relationship between two individuals. It provides legal obligations, protections, and benefits based on the law of Illinois. However, the law does not provide federal protection or responsibility offered to married couples. In contrast with Illinois, the State of Connecticut began with civil unions and later expanded marriage to include same-sex couples. It is noteworthy that Connecticut changed marriage laws and replaced the statutory language with gender-neutral terminology. Thus, same-sex marriages, civil unions, and broad domestic partnerships are treated as marriages in that state.
Unlike many foreign countries, the United States federal government does not recognize civil unions. Consequently, more than 1000 federal rights, benefits, and protections are not available to same-sex couples in civil unions.
Obergefell vs. Hodges: the Essence
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges and recognized that same-sex couples have the same marriage rights as others. The decision nullified bans on same-sex marriage. Consequently, same-sex spouses have the same rights and benefits as other married couples. This decision aims to make same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states providing new legal protections.
Consult an Attorney
Considering marriage or another alternative in your state? You need to consult a family law attorney. He or she will explain all options and help you understand what legal regulations suit your particular case.
Reach out to one of our experienced family law attorneys and protect your family’s rights.