Civil Union Vs Marriage – A Best Guide Of 2023


Marriage is one of the most vital milestones in one’s life. This is because marriage allows an individual to spend a lifetime with another individual till death. Due to this, the selection of the right partner is equally important for an individual seeking marriage. In recent years, the term civil union has attained momentum within various communities in the United States. Moreover, this has resulted in confusion among many regarding the difference between marriage and civil union.  In this article we will provide you with information regarding the difference of concept in civil union vs marriage. Along with ways to determine if civil union is the right choice for you.

The ‘Definition’ Of Marriage

The ‘Definition’ Of Marriage

This consent unites the two consenting adults by economic, legal and emotional factors. 

A marriage that is conducted by contracts is known to legally obligate both individuals. This means they have legal obligations toward each other till death or till they decide to divorce. 

Moreover, marriage also results in the legitimacy of sexual relations between two individuals. 

Furthermore, in traditional terms, marriage has been observed as an act that preserves morals and civilization within the society. 

Basic Elements Of Marriage

Basic Elements Of Marriage

Marriage is considered to have three basic elements that make the union legal and enforceable. These are as follows: 

Marriage in the United States is usually regulated by the Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court has held all the states in the region regarding the permission to decide the factors associated with marriage. 

Moreover, the judicial authority has also given States the power to decide the factor to dissolve the marriage. 

Parties entering marriage change their legal status and provide both the wife and husband with new rights and obligations. 

Moreover, the only power that the States do not have is the prohibition of the union in the absence of a valid reason. 

In the case of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held the opinion that the prohibition of interracial marriage is unconstitutional as it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. This judgment established that marriage is a civil right in the region. 

The ‘Definition’ Of Civil Union

The ‘Definition’ Of Civil Union

Civil union vs marriage tend to have similar definitions

A civil union is a legal relationship between two individuals that provides legal status to the couple at a state level. Moreover, couples within civil unions have inheritance rights, employment benefits, property, parental rights, etc. 

Additionally, civil unions initiate the process of application for a license. Civil unions might also lead to the payment of fees for the effective application of the license. In 2015, the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges declared a historic decision regarding the union between same-sex couples. 

The decision declared that prohibiting marriage between same-sex couples violates the principles of the US Constitution. 

This decision invalidated all the state statutes and constitutional amendments that barred the occurrence of same-sex marriage. 

Civil Union Vs Marriage: The Difference

One of the major differences between marriage and civil union is that the former does not get recognized at the federal level. 

This means couples united by marriage are provided with protection at both the state and federal levels.

Moreover, another factor that differentiates marriage from civil union is the ability to get protection states recognize civil unions.

For instance, if you are entering into a civil union you would not be able to attain the benefits like social security. 

This is because the Social Security Administration provides benefits to couples who are married by not to ones entering a civil union. Moreover, the spouse of a veteran who is living might be eligible for health coverage in a marriage but not within a civil union.  

Another difference between civil union and marriage is its legality in every state of the US.

This means if you get into a civil union in a state that recognizes the union is beneficial. However, if you shift to a state that does not recognize civil unions, it will be barred from acquiring the benefits of the union. 

Is Civil Union The Best Option For You? 

Civil unions are recognized in five states of the United States. These include Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois, and Vermont. Staying in other states might not allow you to acquire benefits associated with civil unions. 

The first reason that might lead you to enter a civil union is if you do believe in the institution of marriage. 

If you are a same-sex couple and seeking civil union, it could be obsolete if you do not reside in the mentioned five states. 

Moreover, if you are still seeking a union, being a same-sex couple, a domestic partnership is a better option for you.  

Domestic Partnership: An Alternative For Same-Sex Couple Seeking Union 

A domestic partnership is recognized in the US by the following states: 

  • California 
  • District of Columbia 
  • Maine 
  • Nevada 
  • Oregan 
  • Washington 
  • Nevada 

It is similar to a civil union that does not recognize the parties as legally married couples. 

Couples seeking domestic partnership have the ability to declare the union by registering with the State. 

This provides them with a marriage license or certification that could be commemorated as per their own wish. Moreover, you could either arrange a quick courthouse ceremony or a grand destination affair.

People may choose a civil union over marriage for various personal, cultural, or legal reasons. Moreover, it’s important to note that the specific reasons can vary widely from one individual or couple to another. Here are some common considerations that might influence someone to choose a civil union:

Reason For Choosing Civil Union vs Marriage

In some jurisdictions, civil unions provide legal recognition and protections for same-sex couples when full marriage equality may not be available.


Civil unions may offer more flexibility in terms of legal requirements, ceremony options, and potential obligations. Moreover, some couples prefer the less formal or traditional aspects associated with civil unions.

Personal Beliefs

Individuals or couples with philosophical or religious beliefs that don’t align with the traditional institution of marriage may choose civil unions as a way to express their commitment without entering into a marital contract.

Separation of Church and State

Some couples may wish to separate their commitment from religious or cultural connotations associated with marriage. Moreover, choosing a civil union can be a way to have a legally recognized partnership without involving religious institutions.

Couples who want legal protections and rights associated with marriage but are hesitant about the historical and cultural baggage that marriage carries may opt for a civil union.

Social or Cultural Reasons

Cultural norms and societal expectations around marriage can vary significantly. Moreover, some couples may choose civil unions due to cultural or familial pressures that make marriage less desirable.

Financial Considerations

Depending on local laws, there may be financial advantages or disadvantages associated with civil union vs marriage. Moreover, couples might choose the option that aligns with their financial goals and circumstances.

Testing the Waters

Couples who want to solidify their commitment but are not yet ready for the full legal and social implications of marriage might opt for a civil union as a stepping stone.

Access to Rights and Benefits

In some regions, civil unions provide access to certain legal rights and benefits without the full range offered by marriage. Moreover, couples may choose this option based on the specific rights they need or want.

Avoidance of Divorce Process

Some couples may find that the legal process of ending a civil union is less complicated than divorce, leading them to choose this option.


Deciding to choose a form of union could be a challenging task for any couple. Moreover, due to this, it is crucial for you to effectively determine the reasons that you are considering seeking a civil union or domestic partnership. 

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