Freedom To Marry

The gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide

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Marriage versus Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships, Etc.

Civil unions and domestic partnerships are a second-class status, and when people take on all the commitments and responsibilities of marriage they should not be treated like second-class citizens.  These legal mechanisms don't provide the same security as marriage. They exclude people from marriage and create an unfair system that often does not work in emergency situations when people need it most.

The only way to achieve equality is to provide the freedom to marry for all committed couples.

Despite their inequality, some states are creating these legal mechanisms to recognize gay couples.  While this does show progress and provides same-sex couples with important responsibilities and protections previously withheld, we also see the repeal of these laws when marriage equality is achieved because they are found unequal to marriage.


Use the links below to learn more about marriage versus civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other lesser package of protections and responsibilities.


Related information from Freedom to Marry:

  1. What do these terms mean?
  2. Proof that other legal mechanisms are not equal to marriage
  3. Other organizations involved
  4. Listen and watch couples' stories
  5. View current news
  6. Overview of U.S. progress (pdf map)



View Maps of the Marriage Landscape in the U.S. for more information.


PUBLICATION: Marriage Makes a Word of Difference

In response to the question "Why can't you just call it something else?," Evan Wolfson explains how the "clarity, security, and dignity [of the word marriage] is precious and irreplaceable."
( Link)

REPORT: Vermont Civil Unions

Office of Legislative Council
April 21, 2008
The report finds civil unions do not provide the fairness and equality they were intended to offer same-sex couples and their families.

REPORT: New Jersey Civil Unions

New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission
February 19, 2008
The report finds New Jersey's civil union law "is not clear to the general public" and "creates a second-class status" for those who have filed for civil unions. (Link)

CHART: Marriage v. Civil Unions

Civil Marriage v. Civil Unions: What’s the difference?
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) GLAD answers the question 'What's the difference?' by breaking down the specific differences between marriage and civil unions.