Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships:
Comparison to Marriage
Civil unions and domestic partner benefits may
appear to provide virtually the same rights as marriage. However,
there are critical distinctions between marriage and civil unions
or domestic partner benefits. In 1997, the General Accounting Office
a memorandum describing the 1,049 federal laws in which rights
are contingent upon marital status. Under the current federal definition
of marriage, same-sex couples are barred from federal benefits heterosexual
couples receive in the areas of taxation, social security, immigration,
and veteran’s benefits. The privileges of marriage are uniformly
recognized across jurisdictions. Conversely, the protections of
civil unions and domestic partner benefits do not travel with couples,
but are only selectively
recognized. The inability to assert rights in a consistent fashion
across jurisdictions is one of the largest distinctions between
marriage and the existing alternatives for same-sex couples.
Sign from Rally to Support Same-Sex Marriage, Massachusetts, 2004.
© Christine Fernsebner Eslao.