Domestic partnership

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Domestic partnerships are government-recognized unions between couples that do not have as many rights as marriage or civil unions. In areas that do not recognize same-gender marriage or civil unions, domestic partnerships are often the only form of legal recognition for same-gender couples, though many opposite-gender couples also choose this form of union.

There is no one definition of what a domestic partnership is. Some states' domestic partnership laws (such as California's) are very strong, but other cities and states have domestic partnership laws that offer only symbolic value. Many progressive cities offer a public domestic partnership registry as a symbolic way of affirming same-gender relationships. Thousands of private companies also offer health benefits to domestic partners of their employees. In November 2003, the first voter-approved domestic partner registry ever was created in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, but the registry is under constant attack and litigation from anti-gay activists. Over the past decade, local governments and cities have routinely offered domestic partnership benefits (oftentimes struck down by court, petition drive, or state constitutional amendment), but only in the past few years have politicians been progressive enough to offer these benefits on a statewide level.

In 2004, Democratic-controlled legislatures in New Jersey and Maine approved domestic partner registries, and Democratic governors Jim McGreevey and John Balducci signed them into law.

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