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The Origins Of Civil Union Laws

Origins Of Civil Union Laws

How's this for a history of civil union laws: a study from the 2007 Journal of Modern History reports that scientists have allegedly found documents and grave sites which provide historical evidence suggesting that various forms of same-sex civil unions date as far back as 600 years.

In a more recent history of civil union law, however, the very first mentions of introducing such a bill, that is, one which legally recognizes same-sex partnerships and accords them benefits similar to heterosexual marriages-occurred in the mid-1980s in California.

Although the 1960s counterculture had brought more radical measures to the gay rights and Gay Liberation Movement, and incidents such as the Stonewall riots of 1969 had put gay rights and gay discrimination on the map in America like never before, it wasn't until the late 1970s and early 1980s that public opinion towards homosexual partnerships changed to such a degree that a legalized homosexual union was even an option.

In 1985, a small yet monumental move was made when a West Hollywood, California, city council member successfully introduced a domestic partnership legislation for its city residents. After being approved, the first ever "domestic partnership registry" was officially created. It was not, however, recognized by the state of California.

Shortly after, another development for civil union laws came from across the ocean, in Denmark. The country became the first in the world to offer same-sex couples a civil union law of sorts by signing a bill, on October 7, 1989, in support of "registered partnerships."

Although it was not officially given the name of a "civil union" law, essentially, it accorded almost identical legal and fiscal rights, benefits, and responsibilities to homosexual partnerships as it did to heterosexual civil marriages. And, for that very reason, the bill is considered the world's official first civil union law.

In the United States, on the other hand, Vermont became the first to offer an official civil union law for same-sex couples. In the year 2000, a Vermont Supreme Court ruled, in Baker vs. Vermont, that the state cannot prohibit same-sex couples from having the same legal rights and privileges which married couples are entitled to. Being that a large number of people were still opposed to the idea of legalized gay marriage at that particular moment in history, the Vermont legislature instead signed a civil union law as a compromise between opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage.

To this day, 20 countries and nine U.S. states have created civil union laws which are legally state recognized. Unlike marriages, however, civil union laws are not transferable from state to state, or country to country, and the rights given to same-sex partnerships are only valid in the jurisdiction which has officially recognized them.

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