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Civil Unions
The Connecticut Approach
© March 6, 2011, Demian

Connecticut became the third American state — and the eighth government in the world — to offer legal marriage to same-sex couples on October 10, 2008. Marriage applications were available starting on November 12, 2008.

      Please see our article: Connecticut Offers Marriage

It is not clear if they still offer Civil Unions. However, there really is no reason to get one.

The following is our original October 1, 2006 article on the Connecticut domestic partner registration known as a Civil Union.

Connecticut offers the same spousal rights to same-sex couples as they do to opposite-sex couples who are legally married. This status became law on April 20, 2005. It took effect on October 1, 2005.

While many news reports have claimed that Connecticut is the first state to provide a legal status for same-sex couples without being ordered to do so by a court, both Hawaii and California provided legal protections for same-sex relationships many years before.


The week before the governor signed Civil Unions into law, the House of Representatives amended the bill at the governor’s urging to define marriage under Connecticut law as existing between one man and one woman. The Senate gave final legislative approval to the amended bill Wednesday afternoon on a 26-8 vote.

After signing the bill, governor M. Jodi Rell stated: “I have said all along that I believe in no discrimination of any kind, and I think that this bill accomplishes that, while at the same time preserving the traditional language that a marriage is between a man and a woman.”

She is wrong on two counts. First, a Civil Union status is a form of unequal treatment, an apartheid.
[Please see our article: Marrying Apartheid: The Failure of Domestic Partnership Status]

Second, traditionally, marriage has taken many different forms, and the one man/one woman form is only one type.
[See: “Marriage Traditions in Various Times and Cultures”]

Seven same-sex filed a lawsuit for legal marriage in August 2004. [See: Legal Marriage Court Cases: A Timeline] While that case had not been resolved at the time the Civil Union bill was passed, Connecticut legislators who backed it claim the threatening suit did not influence them. They said they acted to extend more rights to same-sex couples and their families.

On September 21, 2005, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal advised state officials that the state should recognize same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships from other states, but not same-sex legal marriages. The new law that extends the rights that married couples now enjoy , but it explicitly defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Richard Blumenthal: “Because our state legislature has defined marriage as a union between only a man and a woman, our state will not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Such couples, however, may enter into civil unions in Connecticut.”

As of December 2005, 463 same-sex couples received Civil Union licenses.

Between October 1, 2005 and January 31, 2006, 701 civil union licenses were issued. 416 were female couples, and 285 were male couples.

As of the end of July 2006, 1,072 civil unions were registered. It is estimated that about 30 percent of them were from out of state. 60 percent were female couples, 40 percent male couples. During this same period, 18 couples filed to dissolve their Unions.

Compared to the number of Unions, there are usually about 20,000 legal marriages per year in Connecticut.

Civil Union Rules

  • Reserved only for same-sex couples.
  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • $30 fee.
  • No blood test.
  • No waiting period.
  • No residency requirement.
  • Applications obtained - in person - from a town clerk’s office.
  • Clerk must be in the town where Union is officiated, or where either applicant lives.
  • After applying, couple has 65 days to enter into the union.
  • Officiation may be conducted by anyone who performs marriages (justices of the peace, ordained clergy, judges).
  • Neither partner can be currently married, or in a Civil Union from another state.
  • Same-sex marriages performed in another state or nation are not valid in Connecticut.
  • One year Connecticut residency by one partner required to dissolve a Union.
The last two rules appear to contradict each other. If a legal marriage is not recognized, then why would Connecticut refuse to register a Civil Union because of one?

Civil Union Benefits

While widely reported that the Unions provide all the legal marriage rights and obligations under Connecticut law — estimated to be more than 500 — there is at least one area not covered, that of an estate.

When registered partners Rene Price (61) died without a will on July 28, 2005, her 19-year partner Betty Jordan (66) apparently had no claim to their house, car and bank account that were all in Rene’s name. While the domestic partnership law enumerates a list of rights, it does not specifically mention estate issues. In an attempt to retain these items, which every married couple can assume is jointly owned, Betty was required to sue the state on September 9, 2005.

Key Civil Union Negatives

  • No Federal Recognition — All the points mentioned in chart below.
  • Not Portable — Once outside of Connecticut, you are not in a union.
  • No way to dissolve the Union once outside Connecticut.

We cannot recommend getting a Civil Union, unless a couple lives in Connecticut, and plans to live there forever.

Since no other state officially recognizes the status, it will cannot offer benefits elsewhere. Further, should a couple wish to dissolve their Civil Union, they would be required to return to Connecticut.

Also, it is important to consider that Civil Unions are a codification of a second-class status.

Out-of-State Legal Reactions to Civil Unions

Civil unions do not have any legal weight in the federal sphere, so may not be used for immigration of a binational partner.

Vermont Civil Unions have been met with completely unpredictable legal reactions from many states, most often being dismissed as invalid. [For a list of state reactions, please see our article: Civil Unions: The Vermont Approach]

Not a Model for Family Recognition in U.S.

This domestic partnership status does not work as a model for America, because implementing an equivalent legal status to marriage requires duplicating 150-to-350 laws in each state, and more than 1,138 laws on the federal level. [See U.S. Federal Laws for the Legally Married.] The whole idea is completely impractical.

Further, domestic partnerships are usually not recognized outside of the issuing state. Because of the lack of portability, they create a patchwork legal status as a couple moves or vacations.

Registrations do not have any legal weight in the Federal sphere, and, to date, only California and New Jersey officially recognizes this kind of status from other states.
      [See California: Registration]
      [See New Jersey: Domestic Partnership Act]

While such contracts are an attempt to create equal treatment, they only reinforce a separate and totally unequal status, one we consider to be a manifestation of apartheid.
[See Marrying Apartheid: The Failure of Domestic Partnership Status]

Differences Between Domestic Partner Registration and Legal Marriage
  1. Simple, notarized form registration
  2. No ceremony
  3. Office of Town Clerk
  4. Conveys many marriage rights
  5. A quasi next-of-kin status
  6. Must cohabit
  7. Must share finances
  8. Ended by mailing a termination form
Legal Marriage
  1. License required
  2. No ceremony required
  3. License officiated by clergy, court, or justice of the peace
  4. Conveys hundreds of rights
  5. A true next-of-kin
  6. Can live apart
  7. Not required to share finances
  8. Divorce laws apply
Federal rights NOT Covered by Registration
  • Immigration Rights — Ability for a non-U.S. spouse to become a full citizen.
  • Social Security — Ability to collect benefits upon death of a spouse.
  • Federal Taxes — No joint filing. Pay taxes on job benefits.
  • More than 1,138 laws that are triggered by legal marriage [See U.S. Federal Laws for the Legally Married]

For a vast survey, please see our:
Legal Marriage Report: Global Status of Legal Marriage

Return to: Domestic Partnership Benefits

Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage

Netherlands (2001)
Belgium (2003)
Canada (2005)
Spain (2005)
South Africa (2005)
Norway (2009)
Sweden (2009)
Iceland (2010)
Argentina (2010)
Portugal (2010)
Denmark (2012)
France (2013)
New Zealand (2013)
Brazil (2013)
Uruguay (2013)
New Zealand (2013)
United Kingdom
(England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
Luxembourg (2014)
Finland (2014)
Ireland (2015)
United States (2015)
Colombia (2016)
Germany (2017)
Taiwan (2017)
Malta (2017)
Australia (2017)
US States & Territories
U.S. Supreme Court, June 26, 2015 Ruling: All U.S. States must allow same-sex couples legal marriage.

Massachusetts (2004)
California (2008)
Connecticut (2008)
Iowa (2009)
Vermont (2009)
New Hampshire (2009)
District of Columbia (2009)
New York (2011)
Maine (2012)
Washington (2012)
Maryland (2013)
Rhode Island (2013)
Delaware (2013)
Minnesota (2013)
Illinois (2013)
Utah (2013)
New Jersey (2013)

Hawaii (2013)
New Mexico (2013)
Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
Oregon (2014)
Wisconsin (2014) Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
Pennsylvania (2014)
Indiana (2014)
Nevada (2014)
Virginia (2014)
Oklahoma (2014)
Idaho (2014)
West Virginia (2014)
Alaska (2014)
Arizona (2014)
Wyoming (2014)
Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
Florida (2014)
Colorado (2014)
North Carolina (2014)
South Carolina (2014)
Montana (2014)
Alabama (2015)
Native American Tribes

Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan (2014)
Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)

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