promotion image of download ymail app
Anonymous asked in Society & CultureReligion & Spirituality · 1 decade ago

Please explain a "civil union" to me. Isn't it just the same as getting a license from the state?

Legally, what are the steps taken to obtain a civil union?

What prevents any couple from participating in a ceremony on the beach, for example.?

Don't get me wrong, I am disgusted by the bigots forcing their asinine dogma into the laws, but I want to know why there is not a way around that.


I know that clergy of the Universalist Unitarian church regularly perform same-sex marriages, so why not go there?

Update 2:

Thank you harpertara for a very informative answer.

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Here is an article on the subject from About.Com. It answers most of your questions. Also, I am UU, and in all states but those who actually have same sex marriages, the clergy perform a 'commitment ceremony', which is simply a public act of commitment for the couple with no legal status. A Civil Union is no recognized everywhere, as a marriage is, that is the main difference that gays want to see changed. If 'civil unions' were given the same legal benefits for all states (in other words, on a federal level) than I think most gays would be okay with that.

    The Difference between Gay Marriage and Civil Unions

    by Kathy Belge

    You hear the politicians saying it all the time. “I support Civil Unions, but not gay marriage.” What exactly does this mean? Some even say they support equal rights for gays and lesbians, but not gay marriage. Is this possible? And why do gays and lesbians want marriage so badly when they can have civil unions?

    First of all, What is Marriage? When people marry, they tend to do so for reasons of love and commitment. But marriage is also a legal status, which comes with rights and responsibilities. Marriage establishes a legal kinship between you and your spouse. It is a relationship that is recognized across cultures, countries and religions.

    What is a Civil Union? Civil Unions exist in only a handful of places: Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut. California and Oregon have domestic partnership laws that offer many of the same rights as civil unions.

    Vermont civil unions were created in 2000 to provide legal protections to gays and lesbians in relationships in that state because gay marriage is not an option. The protections do not extend beyond the border of Vermont and no federal protections are included with a Civil Union. Civil Unions offer some of the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, but only on a state level.

    What about Domestic partnership? Some states and municipalities have domestic partnership registries, but no domestic partnership law is the same. Some, like the recently passed California domestic partnership law comes with many rights and responsibilities. Others, like the one in Washingtonoffer very few benefits to the couple.

    What are some of the differences between Civil Unions and Gay Marriage?

    Recognition in other states: Even though each state has its own laws around marriage, if someone is married in one state and moves to another, their marriage is legally recognized. For example, Oregon marriage law applies to people 17 and over. In Washington state, the couple must be 18 to wed. However, Washington will recognize the marriage of two 17 year olds from Oregon who move there. This is not the case with Civil Unions. If someone has a Civil Union in Vermont, that union is not recognized in any other state. As a matter of fact, two states, Connecticut and Georgia, have ruled that they do not have to recognize civil unions performed in Vermont, because their states have no such legal category. As gay marriages become legal in other states, this status may change.

    Dissolving a Civil Union v. Divorce:

    Vermont has no residency requirement for Civil Unions. That means two people from any other state or country can come there and have a civil union ceremony. If the couple breaks up and wishes to dissolve the union, one of them must be a resident of Vermont for one year before the Civil Union can be dissolved in family court. Married couples can divorce in any state they reside, no matter where they were married.


    A United States citizen who is married can sponsor his or her non-American spouse for immigration into this country. Those with Civil Unions have no such privilege.


    Civil Unions are not recognized by the federal government, so couples would not be able to file joint-tax returns or be eligible for tax breaks or protections the government affords to married couples.


    The General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1,049 benefits and protections available to heterosexual married couples. These benefits range from federal benefits, such as survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks. They also include things like family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. Civil Unions protect some of these rights, but not all of them.

    But can’t a lawyer set all this up for gay and lesbian couples?

    No. A lawyer can set up some things like durable power of attorney, wills and medical power of attorney. There are several problems with this, however.

    1. It costs thousands of dollars in legal fees. A simple marriage license, which usually costs under $100 would cover all the same rights and benefits.

    2. Any of these can be challenged in court. As a matter of fact, more wills

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • 1 decade ago

    In most states that allow it, a "civil union" is the same as a marriage, as far as rights and benefits provided by the state are concerned (though it does not grant any rights or benefits provided by the federal government, which does not recognize civil unions as a marriage).

    It's just called by a different name, much like the "back of the bus" is the same as sitting in the front. "Separate but equal" worked out really great the first time, didn't it?

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • 1 decade ago

    The question arises as to whether a Marriage meets the requirements for a couple to gain access to certain benefits socially and economically. Weddings can be performed by anyone, for any reason, at any time, between any two people. However, the law in most cases (and it varies by state and country) only recognizes marriages performed by licensed individuals and between a man and a woman as grounds to obtain said economic benefit.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    a civil union isn't the same as a marriage, whether it's on a beach or not. (and lot of people have full fledged marriages on beaches)

    Conversely, just because a church performs a ceremony, don't expect it to be recognized by the state.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago

    It is a matter of legal rights

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.