Marriage. Wedding. Spouse. With some exceptions in language and culture, these terms are nearly universal. In the United States these terms are central to more than one thousand rights afforded to a wedded couple and they convey one single act and meaning.
Domestic Partnership. Civil Union. Commitment Ceremony. Now the rest of the country is scratching their heads. Currently, the Defense of Marriage Act prevents consistent understanding of these words due to the federal government’s lack of same-sex marriage recognition. This leaves a state-by-state jigsaw puzzle of rights, acknowledgment and, in many cases, nothing.
As of June 1, 2011, Illinois defines a domestic partnership as a legal union and has adopted laws similar to those of California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. While the Phoenix Domestic Partner Registry merely grants hospital visitation rights to the named partner, exclusively in the city of Phoenix. This seems to be a blatant double standard intended to water down the importance and effectiveness of the term and the understanding of the voting public.
Wait, it gets better.
Washington State issues business card-sized replicas of the actual domestic partnership license. As they should, I am sure there are many occasions where carrying proof of your legally recognized relationship could come in handy. And in the State of Hawaii a civil union is formally called a Reciprocal Beneficiary Relationship. Really? Would any of this be necessary if same-sex relationships were truly considered equal?
So, once you’ve found a cozy spot on the map to settle down with your committed significant other/life partner/unlawfully wedded, you’ve filed for your local applicable certificate entitling you to somerights and thrown a ceremony celebrating your love and your union, then you realize you’re not protected anywhere else in the world … unless you happen to be in Rhode Island, New York, Maryland.