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Everything You Must Know About Domestic Partnerships

Everything You Must Know About Domestic Partnerships

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Everything You Must Know About Domestic Partnerships
Domestic partnerships are a legally recognized relationship between a couple that resides together and are not married, or in another legally recognized relationship. Generally, the couple must have resided together for a certain length of time, and be over the age of eighteen. The couple may consist of same sex individuals, or opposite sex individuals depending on state law. 
Domestic partnership is currently the only legally recognized form of same sex relationships in many states and countries worldwide. Currently, domestic partnership is legally recognized in nine states and in the District of Columbia. While the debate on domestic partnership rages on, there are other debates as well. For instance, many members of the LGBT community, wish their relationship to be defined as a marriage.
In many states, the choice of a legalized term for same sex relationships will exclude marriage as an option. In many cases, same sex couples are pleased to have their relationship legally recognized by any term. However, many couples will not accept any term other than marriage. Until the larger debates are settled, many same sex couples are offered the legal option of domestic partnership. 
Couples that obtain an affidavit of domestic partnership, have proof of their entitlement to many of the rights that are usually reserved for opposite sex, married couples. Many of those legal rights are prohibited without a couple entering into some form of a  legally recognized relationship.


Background: 
Domestic partnerships are defined as relationships between couples that reside together without any other legal recognition of the relationship. The relationship may between same sex or opposite sex couples. In some cases, that couple is entitled to some or all of, the rights and responsibilities that are normally reserved for opposite sex married couples. 
The rights conferred on the relationship, will depend on the laws of their state of residence. In fact, many states offer only limited rights to domestic partners. There are however, some rights that are pretty standard from state to state. Domestic partnership agreements may allow couples to enter into a contract that protects individual and shared property in the event of a separation. However, their individual and shared rights during their relationship, are of greater importance. 
For example, couples may be allowed to inherit property from each other, in addition to being allowed to share that property while they are both alive. In many states, domestic partners are also allowed to share health benefits. Also, couples can be allowed to make health care decisions regarding their partner, agree to organ donation, as well as make funeral arrangements for their partner. These rights were never conferred upon same sex couples until the advent of the domestic partnership agreement.
Origins: 
California was the first state to legally address the validity of domestic partnerships and the implications for same sex couples. In fact, California was the first state to offer same sex couples any legal recognition of their relationship. The term domestic partnership was first used in a court case in which one partner was fighting to have his relationship recognized in order to receive bereavement pay after his partner passed away. 
That individual claimed that his employer withheld pay that was due him. However, the judge sided with the employer, claiming that there was not proof that a relationship existed between the two men.While that case failed to recognize that couples relationship, it brought the idea to the forefront.  Berkeley's citizens began to request some form of legal recognition for same sex relationships. 
Eventually, the city adopted domestic partnership laws. Statewide domestic partnerships laws  in California, would follow. Eventually other states began to legally recognize same sex relationships in some form. While states offer different rights to domestic partners, there are currently nine states that recognize them as legally valid.


Usage: 


Domestic partnerships offer same sex couples the opportunity to have their relationship legally recognized by the state in which they reside. In some cases, other states will also recognize the legality of the relationship, and offer the same, or similar rights and responsibilities as a result of the relationship. For example, a domestic agreement from Colorado, would be recognized in California. 

In fact, the couple  would have more rights conferred on their relationship in California. Domestic partnership agreements can include issues that would normally be confronted in prenuptial agreements, marriage agreements, and even be utilized as a tool for estate planning. 

In fact domestic partnership agreements can be utilized to aid same sex couples in attaining equal rights. Domestic partnerships allow couples to exercise those rights during a relationship, and it the event that the relationship ends through death or separation.


Legal Rights: 


Couples that obtain an affidavit of domestic partnership, are entitled to many of the same rights and responsibilities associated with marriage. Domestic partners are able to own property jointly and open joint bank accounts. In addition, couples can get a mortgage or other loans, together. Domestic partners also become responsible for providing for their partner's needs in the areas of food and shelter. 

In many cases, domestic partnership affidavits make partners liable for each others debt and other financial responsibilities. In some states, domestic partners are also able to make health care decisions for their partners and they also become entitled to visit their partner in the hospital or in prison. In fact, domestic partners are able to take part in estate planning and also to make funeral arrangements for each other. 

In addition, some domestic partners are legally able to change their surname to match that of their partner's. Like marriage, domestic partnerships allow couples to enjoy many rights and responsibilities because of the legal recognition of their relationship.
Benefits Arguments For: 


Citizens of the United States are assured that they are suppose to have access to equal rights. However, members of the LGBT community are often denied access to rights that are generally afforded to the public. By denying the legality of same sex marriage, the rights associated with marriage are also denied. 
In fact, same sex couples are confronted with the loss of property and assets when a partner dies. In some cases, a partner is forced to vacate the property because they are not legally allowed to be listed on the lease or deed. In addition, partners may not be able to visit each other in the hospital or make medical decisions even though they are most aware of their partners wishes.
Domestic partnership agreements allow same sex couples the ability to care for each other in life and in death. Without the agreements, same sex couples have no legal rights regarding their relationship. In order to enjoy the rights afforded to marriage, couples must first be legally allowed to recognize their relationship. In doing so, same sex couples are then able to enjoy the rights that follow the legal recognition of their relationship, such as shared property, joint bank accounts and the ability to make health care decisions.
Arguments Against: 


There are many arguments against the legal recognition of same sex relationships. For instance, the opposition claims that the legal recognition of same sex relationships, puts the sanity of marriage in jeopardy. In fact, many people claim that a marriage, or any similar relationship, should strictly be recognized as the unique relationship between a man and a woman. Many people claim that same sex couples will be able to start families once they are able to legally recognize their relationship. In addition, the opposition feels that same sex couples will be unable to effectively parent. 
In essence, the opposition claims that their are too many negative implications associated with children raised by same sex parents. People use negative outcome as an argument against gay marriage, citing psychological and social implications that are supposedly associated with same sex couples raising children. In general, the opposition claims that marriage is strictly meant for an opposite sex couple, with the intent of starting a family. Any other variation, denies the sanctity of marriage.
Brief Description of States that Allow and the Differences Between them:
 
In some states, domestic partners are entitled to all of the same rights as married couples. However, some states offer domestic partners only limited rights. Nevada is one state that offers domestic partners all of the rights that are conferred on a married couple. That means that a domestic partnership is like marriage, in every way, except for in name. In Nevada, married couples receive no benefit over domestic partnerships. 
However, Maryland offers very limited rights to domestic partners. Mostly domestic partners receive rights as they relate to health care in Maryland. In fact, couples cannot enjoy many of the rights afforded to married couples in Maryland. Oregon is another example of a state that offers domestic partners limited rights regarding their domestic partnership status.  
In Oregon, couples can share health insurance,  visit each other in the hospital, make funeral arrangements and inherit property in the absence of a will. Domestic partners in  Washington state enjoy similar rights to domestic partners in Oregon. However, partners are also able to request an autopsy and make organ donations on behalf of their partner. 
While many states currently offer legal domestic partnerships, the rights afforded to those couples can vary greatly form state to state. If domestic partners should move to another state that legally recognizes their relationship, their rights may change in regards to their relationship. For instance, domestic partners that move from California to Washington state, are likely to lose some rights regarding their relationship. However, their relationship would still be legally recognized as opposed to moving to a state that offers no legal recognition.
International Usage:Domestic Partnerships versus Marriage:


For some domestic partners, the difference between their relationship and marriage, can be the ability to have a family. In many cases, domestic partners are unable to legally adopt children or have a surrogate baby. In fact, many state laws prohibit gay adoption by making only married couples eligible to adopt a child or have a surrogate baby. 
In addition, many same sex couples claim that any name, other than marriage, puts their relationship on a status lower than that of an opposite sex couple. In fact, the difference in rights afforded to domestic partnerships versus even same sex marriage, can be significant. For example, some domestic partners are unable to make health care decisions for their partner, while same sex married couples generally can. 
Also, domestic partners are unable to collect pensions, while opposite sex married partners can collect pensions. In addition, opposite sex married couples are also afforded federal tax credits. Same sex couples are entitled to no federal recognition of their relationship and therefore are entitled to no federal rights regarding their relationship. Besides the psychological and emotional implications of no legal recognition for marriages, same sex couples also face many complications in the event that one partner passes away. 
In addition to being unable to share in joint property and assets while alive, same sex couples are sometimes confronted with the horrendous legal complications associated with not being married when one partner passes away. For instance, partners can be evicted from property or be unable to inherit assets that the couple built together. In the absence of marriage, assets are generally turned over to the closet next of kin. In other words, a relative of the deceased will inherit the property and assets, rather than the partner.

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