5 Legal Alternatives to Marriage

I’m so poorly equipped for marriage, I don’t even know how to spell the wor --  a fact I only just learned when I sat down to write that post and was greeted immediately by a dotted red line. So maybe I don’t know first thing about “till death do us part.” I’m not against it for everyone, but I am against it for me. I’m not religious, I don’t like a lot of government in my bedroom, and having to attend a billion marches for marriage equality kind of soured me on the subject. Still, I can think of worse reasons to throw a party, and I do love my boo, and if I get deathly ill, I’d like for her to visit me in the hospital. So, I recently launched into an in-depth study of what my options are. Ladies and gentlemen and everyone in-between, I present 5 legal alternatives to Marriage. 

1. .  Civil Union

For the longest time, a civil union was as good as it got for gay folks. Definitions of civil unions vary state to state, and they don’t include any federal benefits or protections—spoiler alert, that’s going to be a recurring trend on this list. A civil union in one state may not be recognized in another, which makes it sticky when you cross state lines. Federal marriage equality nuked most of its relevance, but civil unions are still available in: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island. 

2. .  Domestic Partnership

A domestic partnership is similar to a civil union, but can be offered on the city as well as state level. Depending on your employer and the state in which you live, a domestic partnership may get couples access to shared health care and other privileges married couples enjoy. However, anything federal is a mess with domestic partnerships, which is why the fight for gay marriage was so hard fought. And if you’re currently confused about the differences between a domestic partnership and civil union, that’s totally fair. Since they vary state to state, it’s tricky to list the differences. Basically, both are close to the same as marriage on the state level, but break down completely federally. 

3. .  Cohabitation

Was that too confusing for you? Then cohabitation is for you, because it is as easy as doing absolutely nothing. Cohabitation is living together, no strings attached, and is more and more becoming the preferred alternative to legal marriage. It can be tricky to carve out legal rights when raising a family etc. but as lifetime monogamy is becoming less of a trend than ever before, many couples put both of their toothbrushes in the same toothbrush cup and call it a day. 

4. .  Living Will

Full disclosure, this is what I decided to do. You and your boo each get a lawyer and draw up a living will that names your partner your legal next of kin. It still gets a little wonky on the federal level, but generally speaking, your legal next of kin gets all of the same rights your spouse would, including visiting you in the hospital if you’re unconscious and taking care of your stuff when you die. Am I detailing all of the legal specifics? Nope. You need a laywer for that. Sexy, isn’t it? 

5. .  Common Law Marriage

Casually known as sui juris marriage has roots dating back to 1877. Basically, it’s just telling people you’re married without going through any of the formalities. If you’re both marriage eligible, as in over 18, of sound mind and not married to anyone else—and live together, you can start telling folks you’re married, and eventually, it will come true! Downsides include that only nine states acknowledge common law marriages, and one of them is The District of Columbia—the others are Alabama, Colorado, South Carolina, Idaho, Kansas, Rhode Island, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas—but the upside: you still need to file paperwork to get a divorce. Wait, that’s the upside?? 

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