Domestic Partnership Law

Domestic Partnership Law

The area of law that deals with the rights of unmarried adults who choose to live together in the same manner as a married couple but who are not married.

Domestic partnership law is evolving rapidly, in part because more individuals are choosing to identify themselves as domestic partners. Although any two adults living together in a loving relationship may be called partners, the term is most frequently used to describe same-sex couples.

In the last decade of the twentieth century and continuing into the twenty-first, a number of city and county governments enacted domestic partnership laws, including Seattle, New York City, and Broward County, Florida. In 1999, California passed a state domestic partnership law that provided a number of protections that formerly had been offered only to married couples. These protections include the right to inherit from a partner's estate; the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner; the right to use sick leave to care for a partner; the right to obtain Health Insurance through a partner; and the right to adopt a partner's child as a step-parent. Domestic partners in California may obtain these benefits by registering with the state.

Although domestic partnership law is intended to provide benefits to partners, it still represents uncharted territory and is far from comprehensive or complete. Using the California law as an example, a domestic partner is defined as a committed member of a same-sex couple; heterosexual couples who cohabit may not register as domestic partners. The rationale is that heterosexual couples in a committed relationship have the option of marriage, an option that is not open to same-sex couples. The only exception for heterosexual couples is when one partner is age 62 or older, because frequently Senior Citizens who cohabit run the risk of losing part of their Social Security benefits if they marry.

A more problematic issue for domestic partners is the fact that their partnership is generally not recognized outside of their jurisdiction. Thus, their domestic partnership rights are not binding if they should move to a community that has no such laws of its own. In fact, domestic partners who relocate to a new community that does have protective laws are advised to reregister in their new home in order to eliminate any Ambiguity.

Cross-references

Adoption; Gay and Lesbian Rights; Family Law.

References in periodicals archive ?
A court battle similar to the landmark Massachusetts case is working its way toward New Jersey's supreme court, Influencing that case "wasn't the intention" of passing the domestic partnership law, said Loretta Weinberg, a state assemblywoman and lead sponsor of the bill.
In June of 1998, the Salvation Army refused to comply with San Francisco's domestic partnership law and ended its contracts with that city.
They would only solemnize the rights the city has granted gay couples since its domestic partnership law took effect on Valentine's Day in 1991.
Nor would federal rights - such as joint income tax returns and immigration laws - necessarily be affected by a state-level domestic partnership law.
Chris Gregoire signed a domestic partnership law last May, a group called Protect Marriage Washington gathered enough signatures to refer the legislation to a public vote next month.
The ruling stated that California's new domestic partnership law, approved in October by Gov.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which successfully challenged the legality of Boston's domestic partnership law, said today a decision by a state judge overturning the domestic partnership ordinance for the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts is an important victory for marriage and the family.
All that changed when Oregon's domestic partnership law went into effect a year ago.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has struck down Boston's domestic partnership law, saying it is prohibited by state law.
The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, said today it is appealing a decision by a Maryland judge dismissing a lawsuit brought by the ACLJ challenging the domestic partnership law in Montgomery County, Maryland.
The passage of Oregon's domestic partnership law also played into the newspaper's decision, Baker said, as did the corresponding change in state records practices.
Archbishop William Levada, a staunch conservative appointed to head the San Francisco archdiocese last year, initiated his first public battle with the city recently when he threatened to sue over the city's new domestic partnership law, which recognizes gay and lesbian couples.

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