domestic partners

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Domestic partners refers to two persons engaged in a commitment (generally, a civil union) that is legally equivalent to marriage. Individuals generally decide to enter domestic partnership because they wish to avoid marriage or because they are barred from marriage. Entering into civil union allows such individuals to obtain benefits and protections that are identical to or that resemble those available to married couples.

Though some states do not allow the formation of civil unions, all states are bound by the principles of comity and federalism to honor domestic partnerships created in other states.

Domestic partnerships have become less common after the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally guaranteed right.

That said, it is important to note that in Dobbs v. Jackson (2022) the Supreme Court stripped away at the penumbra of privacy rights originally attributed to uphold abortion rights which opens up the door to potentially examine decisions such as Obergefell v. Hodges.  

Related terms:

  • Civil union partners
  • Palimony

[Last updated in September of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]