Marriage & Relationships | Domestic Partnerships & Civil Unions | Connecticut
Connecticut Domestic Partnerships & Civil Unions Q&A
Does Connecticut still allow civil unions?
Not anymore. Connecticut completed its transition from civil unions to full marriage equality for same-sex couples in 2010.
Before the transition, Connecticut was the second state (Vermont was the first) to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, a legal status parallel to civil marriage under state law. However, in 2008, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that excluding same-sex couples from the institution of marriage violated the Connecticut Constitution (Kerrigan v. Comm’r of Pub. Health, 289 Conn. 135 (2008)). Following that decision, the Connecticut legislature passed Public Act 09-13, “An Act Implementing the Guarantee of Equal Protection Under the Constitution of the State for Same Sex Couples,” which provided a process for moving from a dual civil union and marriage system to a system in which only marriage is available. All existing Connecticut civil unions were converted into marriages on October 1, 2010.
If you have a civil union (or registered domestic partnership) from another state, Public Act 09-13 clarifies that Connecticut will grant you the same rights and benefits, and hold you to the same responsibilities, as a married couple in Connecticut.
What is domestic partnership?
Although it is a term used in many contexts, “domestic partnership” most often means a status which recognizes an unmarried couple and their children as a family for certain limited purposes, most commonly employee benefits. Some states, cities and towns have also enacted domestic partner laws. In other contexts, “domestic partner” is also a shorthand term for family, replacing “lover,” “friend,” and “roommate.” Some people call cohabitation agreements “domestic partner agreements.” For further information see GLAD publications on domestic partnership at: www.glad.org/rights/publications/c/relationships/
Does Connecticut provide same-sex domestic partner benefits to state employees?
Not any longer. Although Connecticut offered domestic partnership benefits for its state employees for several years, there was an agreement that when marriage became available to same-sex couples, benefits would only be available to married or civil union spouses. Beginning in November 2009, domestic partnership benefits were terminated.
Can cities and towns in Connecticut provide domestic partner health insurance benefits to their own employees?
Yes. For example, Hartford has a domestic partnership ordinance providing a means for couples to register as domestic partners (Hartford, CT Municipal Code, Chap. 2, Art. III, sec. 2-63 (2000)).
What kinds of domestic partner benefits may private employers provide?
Private employers may provide any benefits to domestic partners they wish – whether health insurance, family medical or bereavement leave, equal pension benefits, relocation expenses, access to company facilities, or any other benefit.
However, even when employers provide these benefits, federal laws sometimes treat domestic partner benefits differently from spousal benefits, often with financial consequences. For example, employees must pay federal income tax on a domestic partner’s health insurance benefits, but spousal benefits are exempt (see Internal Revenue Code, Private Letter Ruling 9603011 (Jan. 19, 1996)). Similarly, while spousal consent is required if a married employee decides to name a third party as a pension beneficiary or survivor benefits recipient, an employee with a domestic partner can change these designations freely.
Can I use the state non-discrimination law to force my employer to provide domestic partnership benefits?
This is an open question. On the one hand, Connecticut non-discrimination law says that an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in terms of compensation, and employee benefits are a form of compensation. But on the other hand, lawsuits in other states have largely failed with these types of claims on the grounds that all unmarried people – gay and non-gay alike – are barred from benefits, so there is no specific sexual orientation discrimination.