Domestic Partner Registries

Domestic partnerships have different rights and responsibilities accorded to them in different states.

California and Washington register domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, and also for different-sex couples where one person is 62 or older.  Oregon and Wisconsin register same-sex partnerships.  New Jersey registers partnerships where both people are 62 or older, regardless of sex.  Nevada registers couples regardless of sex or age.  Illinois and Hawaii offer civil unions to all couples.  In these states, partners are treated the same as spouses under state law.

Maine and the District of Columbia register domestic partnerships for couples regardless of sex or age, according them limited rights and responsibilities. In Hawaii and Colorado, couples can register as beneficiaries, again with limited rights.

Domestic partnerships are not treated like marriage under federal law.

In addition to state-wide registries, many towns and cities have domestic partner registries where domestic partners (defined differently in different places — most include all couples, but a few are limited to same-sex couples only) can sign an affidavit that they meet certain criteria, pay a small fee, and become “registered” domestic partners. Usually these registries offer no immediate benefits, but other entities — like employers or insurance companies — can, if they wish, rely on the registry’s information to decide who is eligible for domestic partner health benefits, different insurance rates, etc.

These registries are not the same thing as domestic partner benefits, which are offered by employers to give employees with unmarried partners benefits similar to the ones married employees receive for their spouses (health benefits, bereavement and sick leave, pension benefits, etc.).

To find out if your locality registers domestic partners, contact the local agency that issues marriage licenses, or visit our Legal and Financial Resources by State page.

Updated March 2013