The current state of LGBTQ marriage laws in the United States is in constant flux. This causes confusion and uncertainty. At Laura Dale & Associates, we pride ourselves on staying current with complex LGBTQ family law issues, including same sex-unions and same-sex dissolution.
Even though same-sex marriages are not recognized in Texas, they are in many other states and countries and it is therefore important to understand the differences between a same-sex marriage, a civil union, and a domestic partnership because each provides a different level of legal protection to a same-sex couple involved, regardless of the origin of the agreement.
What A Marriage License Will Do For You
A civil marriage (what most simply think of as marriage) is allowed by a government when it issues a marriage license. The license gives legal recognition and all the legal protections granted by government (foreign or domestic) to the married couple. The license also imposes legal obligations on each partner in the marriage.
Currently, only Connecticut, Washington D.C., Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont will grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages from other states. California no longer grants marriage licenses to same-sex couples after Proposition 8, but it will recognize the legal marriages performed there before November 4, 2008. If Proposition 8 is overturned it is expected that California will once again offer same-sex marriage. Washington has authorized marriage by legislature and the governor has signed the bill into law. However, the law is in “referendum” status and may be decided by the voters.
Civil Unions: The Difference
In the United States, civil unions are not civil marriages. A civil union is a legal mechanism used by a state to grant same-sex couples a legal status similar to a civil marriage. The main difference between civil unions and civil marriages is that civil unions only grant state-level rights to the couple and they do not have to be recognized by other states.
Finally, some U.S. states, counties, and cities grant same-sex couples domestic partnerships. The partners of a domestic partnership are not legally joined in a civil union or marriage. Domestic partnerships allow a couple to create legally binding contracts with each other, and they vary among localities. Generally speaking, domestic partnerships do not reach the level of legal protections afforded by civil unions or civil marriages.
Spousal Rights In The U.S. And Abroad
There are a number of states who grant state-level spousal rights to LGBTQ couples. These spousal rights are comparable to the spousal rights afforded to the opposite-sex couples in their individual borders. Currently five states — Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island — offer their same-sex residents the option of entering into a civil union, and four states-California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington-offer their same-sex residents the option of entering into domestic partnerships with rights equal to opposite-sex couples. Washington domestic partnerships will be converted to marriage in 2014 unless the voters decide otherwise. Additionally, Maine and Wisconsin allow their same-sex residents to enter into domestic partnerships with limited state-level spousal rights.
As of 2013 fifteen countries allow same-sex couples to marry, including:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Same-couples may not only marry in parts of the United States, but in Mexico and the United Kingdom as well.
The huge variation in the law, whether domestic or foreign, creates a complex legal problem for same-sex families, when it comes to not only marriage, but to divorce as well. Consultation with an attorney who is fully informed about these matters can help you to navigate these difficult waters that are constantly changing.
Contact Us Today For A Consultation
Due to the experience our lawyers have in many specialized areas of the law, you may rely on our legal team to counsel you with regard to same-sex marriage and dissolution of same-sex relationships. Contact us today to make an appointment to discuss your needs with a knowledgeable lawyer.