Domestic Partnerships

Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized same-sex marriage across the country. Obergefell v. Hodges concurrently extinguished state bans on gay marriage, including Ohio’s ban. Today, same-sex marriage is legal in the U.S. and Ohio. Pursuant to Obergefell v. Hodges, Ohio must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon their request, the same process as heterosexual couples. All states, including Ohio, must legally recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, the same process as heterosexual couples.

Obergefell v. Hodges acknowledged a same-sex couples’ right to marry, which in turn delivered all the collateral rights tied to marriage to gay couples as well. For instance, same-sex couples can file joint state tax returns. Employers extend the same benefits to same-sex spouses that Employers formerly reserved for opposite-sex spouses, such as health insurance. In hospitals and hospital-like settings, both same-sex spouses and opposite-sex spouses possess the same rights regarding visitation and decision-making with respect to their spouses.


Same-sex couples qualify for the same death benefits after a spouse dies, like a gift tax exemption and inheritance. Same-sex couples also have the same rights to terminate their marriages via divorce and dissolution.

Civil Unions in Ohio

Prior to Obergefell v. Hodges, civil unions arose as an attempt by some states to create a marriage substitute for same-sex couples. Only a hand full of states enacted laws establishing civil unions. Ohio was not one of them. Ohio still does not recognize civil unions. On the other hand, gay couples presently in civil unions do have the right to get married in Ohio or to have their out-of-state marriage recognized by Ohio.

Civil union operate much like a marriage and yield many of the same incentives as marriage. The problem remains the incentives only exist within the confines of the particular jurisdiction. If the couple in the civil union leave their state, then the rights guaranteed by law in their home-state evaporate. Any legally accepted relationship and rights bestowed thereon cease to exist outside the jurisdiction from which the civil union arose.

Domestic Partnerships in Ohio

A domestic partnership is a legally recognized relationship for an unmarried couple who lives together. Ohio does not recognize domestic partnerships under state law. Other states and cities within Ohio do indeed authorize and provide for cohabitating, committed couples to memorialize their relationship by registering as domestic partners.

To register a domestic partnership, the partners must be at least 18 years old, unmarried, and not related. The partners seeking to register are required to state they intend to live together; are each other’s only domestic partner; and are in a committed and mutual relationship. It follows that both partners must be present when registering a domestic partnership.

Domestic Partnership Designation

A domestic partnership designation benefits partners in numerous ways. A domestic partner designation allows a partner to be named as a beneficiary in his or her partner’s health insurance policy. The partners also may be eligible for family leave and adoption rights. Partners may also receive visitation rights pertaining to a partner in jail or hospitalized; decision-making authority regarding medical and financial matters for a partner; and housing rights.

To terminate a domestic partnership, 1 of the partners needs to complete and file the appropriate termination form stating the partnership ended. Both partners do not need to sign the form, but the signing partner should provide the other partner with a copy of the executed termination form. After filing, there is a six-month waiting period before the domestic partnership actually terminates, during which benefits continue for both the partners.

Difference Between Marriage & Civil Unions / Domestic Partnerships

When 2 parties are legally married, those parties are legally married everywhere; meaning, all the states, and most countries recognize the marriage of the 2 parties legally binding them together in a relationship. Not so for civil unions and domestic partnerships. The same rights enjoyed by the partnership at home within their jurisdiction do not exist outside the applicable jurisdiction.

Marriages supply more protections and benefits, which are comprehensively acknowledged and respected than a domestic partnership. Domestic partners are not legally “family.” A married couple can file together for a joint tax return. Domestic partners may not. What’s more, marriage furnishes parties with federal advantages germaine to tax, immigration, veteran, and social security issues. Conversely, federal law does not recognize the validity of domestic partnerships and civil unions; therefore, neither are entitled to the same federal benefits.