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Gay marriage or domestic partnerships? Federal court to rule

Marriage is no doubt considered by most a sacred bond between two people, even in this day and age, from the quietest suburb in Washington State to its busiest thoroughfare. Yet, the passage of time has witnessed the legal and societal recognition of relationships other than a marriage. Domestic partnerships, for example, represent one such relationship, which denies a couple certain benefits that would otherwise be granted only to married couples.

Such benefits may range from insurance benefits to tax exemptions to employment benefits, including a leave from work on account of familial responsibilities. However, it is important to remember that even if two states recognize domestic partnerships as legal, their respective approaches toward such domestic relationships and associated issues such as divorce may differ from each other. For quite some time, same-sex couples have sought to obtain similar benefits, given the unsteady position of the law when it comes to gay marriages across the U.S.

The recent controversy over same-sex marriages all over the country is a prime example of such differences. In the last two years, the U.S. judiciary and the legislature have made considerable progress in removing the ban against marriage equality and legalizing gay marriages. As many as 11 states, Washington State first among them, have already recognized such marriages. This move has also received support from the judicial ranks in the form of striking down the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Even the federal court is at present poised to deliberate on this issue.

Any decision regarding the legality of such marriages may likely be proven to be considerably significant in the lives of the same-sex couples engaged in domestic partnerships -at the very least, they can obtain certain benefits far more easily than before. However, considering that the federal court has yet to have the last word in this matter, it may do couples involved in domestic partnerships good to be aware of their respective rights and legal entitlements, whether it pertains to the preservation or dissolution of the relationship.

Source: The Washington Post, "Gay marriage fight shifts to federal courts, 2014 set to be tipping-point year," Reid Wilson, Dec. 24, 2013

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