Counting the Costs of Civil Unions: Some Potential Detrimental Effects on Family Law

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This article examines the emergence of same-sex civil unions and marriage-like domestic partnership schemes in the United States of America in recent years. It describes distinctions, differences and definitions of civil unions and domestic partnerships and focuses in particular upon Civil Union legislation enacted in Vermont. It also reviews (current to the time the paper was presented) a summary of statutes and cases that address domestic partnership and civil union issues. The first three appellate court decisions to cite the Vermont civil union legislation are discussed in this paper. It criticizes the double standard of the Vermont's Supreme Court's review of the challenge to the unethical practices of the 14 legislators who allegedly voted for the civil union law while participating in a betting pool, in possible violation of state civil laws, constitutional provisions, and criminal statutes. In an effort to anticipate potential effects on family law doctrines, the articles suggest 32 different signficant consequences of legalizing Civil Unions or marriage-like domestic partnerships for existing family rules and regulations, and potential structural and social consequences. The author suggests that the costs of civil unions are disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable in society and that the legalization of broad civil unions and domestic partnerships is unwise.


11 Widener J. Pub. L.

Publication Title

Widener Journal of Public Law

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