Civil union in the United States
|Legal recognition of
† Not yet in effect
A civil union is a legally recognized union similar to marriage.
In the United States, civil unions first became available in Vermont on 1 July 2000. Connecticut legalized civil unions in 2005 and in 2007, New Jersey and New Hampshire followed suit. In December 2010, Illinois passed a civil union law, which became effective on 1 June 2011. Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Delaware enacted civil union laws in 2011, which have all gone into effect. Colorado passed a civil union law in March 2013, and took effect on 1 May 2013.
In addition, domestic partnerships in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and the District of Columbia are effectively civil unions in that they convey all (or nearly all) of the legal rights, benefits, obligations, honors, and privileges of marriage. Domestic partnerships from these jurisdictions are fully honored in states with civil unions and vice versa.
Wisconsin offers other arrangements that grant limited domestic partnerships for same-sex couples with some of the rights associated with marriage or a civil union.
States with civil unions available
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 opposite-sex couples to same-sex 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 promised to continue pushing for same-sex marriage in 2007 and 2008. The Governor, Chris Christie, indicated he would veto a same-sex marriage bill if passed.
On November 30, 2010, the Illinois House passed a civil unions bill, Senate Bill 1716, with a vote of 61 to 52. On December 1, 2010, the Illinois Senate approved the civil unions bill 32 to 24. Governor Pat Quinn signed the law on January 31, 2011, and the law took effect on June 1, 2011.
Since 1997, the U.S. state of Hawaii has offered reciprocal beneficiary registration for any adults who are prohibited by state law from marrying, including both same-sex and different-sex couples. Reciprocal beneficiaries have access to a limited number of rights and benefits on the state level, including inheritance rights, workers compensation, the right to sue for wrongful death, health insurance and pension benefits for state employees, hospital visitation, and healthcare decisionmaking. Hawaii's RBR status also offers partners the option to jointly own property as "Tenants by the Entirety."
On March 21, 2013, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to establish civil unions. Civil unions became available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples on May 1, 2013. The law also provides full legal recognition to out-of-state same-sex marriages, civil unions, and other substantially similar legal relationships (e.g. California domestic partnerships).
States with civil unions previously available
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 July 1, 2000. A same-sex marriage bill was passed by the legislature with a veto override on April 7, 2009. The bill came into effect on September 1, 2009. After that date, no new civil unions were performed.
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 October 1, 2008 and was signed into law by Connecticut governor Jodi Rell. Gay rights groups subsequently sued to legalize same-sex marriage, with the Connecticut Supreme Court deciding in their favor in 2008. Same-sex marriages have been performed since November 12, 2008. On October 1, 2010, all existing civil unions were automatically transformed into marriages.
On April 4, 2007, the New Hampshire House passed a civil unions bill, HB437, with a vote of 243 to 129. The bill was 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. 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". The civil unions law took effect on January 1, 2008.
New Hampshire has since legalized same-sex marriage, which came into effect on January 1, 2010. After that date, no new civil unions can be established in the state. Furthermore, all existing civil unions were converted into marriages on January 1, 2011.
Civil unions were available to same-sex couples in Rhode Island from July 1, 2011 to July 31, 2013, after which same-sex marriage became legal.
In June 2011, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a bill that would establish civil unions beginning on July 1. The bill allows religious organizations to refuse to recognize these unions. The bill was signed by Governor Lincoln Chafee on July 2, 2011.
On 2 May 2013, the Governor of Rhode Island signed legislation authorising same-sex marriage. The legislation will take force on 1 August. After this date, existing civil unions can be converted into marriages and no new civil unions can be created.
Civil unions were available to same-sex couples in Delaware from January 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, after which same-sex marriage became legal.
Legislation authorizing civil unions for same-sex couples in Delaware was passed by the Delaware House on April 14, 2011. The Delaware Senate had passed the legislation the previous week. Governor Jack Markell had previously expressed his intention to sign the bill if passed. His staff announced that the governor would host a signing ceremony during the month of May, 2011. The civil union designation will entitle same-sex couples to the same rights, benefits and privileges under state law that are granted to opposite-sex married couples.
After signature by the governor, the law took effect on January 1, 2012.
Since July 1, 2013, when same-sex marriage became legal, civil unions are no longer offered to any couple and existing civil unions will be converted into marriages by July 1, 2014.
- Civil union
- Same-sex unions in the United States
- Same-sex marriage in the United States
- LGBT rights in the United States
- Cities and counties in the United States offering a domestic partnership registry
- "Illinois gov signs historic civil unions legislation". Boston Herald. Associated Press. January 31, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
- Richburg, Keith B. (April 7, 2009). "Vermont Legislature Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- "Vt. legalizes same-sex marriage". The Burlington Free Press. 2009-04-07. Retrieved 2009-04-07.[dead link]
- "N.H. House passes civil unions". 2007-04-05. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- "State Senate approves civil unions for same-sex couples". 2007-04-26. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- "Lynch signs bill legalizing civil unions". 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- HOUSE BILL 73 AN ACT affirming religious freedom protections with regard to marriage and prohibiting the establishment of civil unions on or after January 1, 2010.
- MacDougall, Ian (June 29, 2011). "RI Senate passes civil unions bill". Greenwich Time. Associated Press. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
- "Rhode Island Same Sex Civil Unions Bill Signed By Governor Lincoln Chafee". The Huffington Post. 2011-07-02. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
- HB 5015 - Same-sex marriage bill, Section 6
- "House passes civil unions bill, Gov. will sign". Dover Post. 2011-04-14. Retrieved 2011-04-15.
- Ramseyer, Laurel (May 7, 2013). "Delaware Becomes Eleventh State to Legalize Marriage Equality [Updated]". Pam's House Blend. Retrieved May 7, 2013.