A domestic partnership consists of two unmarried people who are in a long-term relationship and care for each others' financial and emotional health. People who register as domestic partners with their state of residence are guaranteed many of the rights of married couples, including adoption rights, employment benefits, tax benefits, hospital visitation rights and legal protections upon their partner's death.
Legislation such as the California Domestic Partnership Law is important because it grants partners rights that were previously only available to man and wife. Without domestic partnership rights, one might not be able to visit their injured partner in the hospital.
Domestic partner rights can be clarified in a Domestic Partner Agreement, a contract that specifies how the couple shares income, expenses and property. It also covers legal issues, inheritance intentions, and non legal topics such as the division of household labor, and can be used in court should the couple decide to split.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, most Fortune 500 companies now extend health insurance and dental care benefits to their employees same-sex partner and their children.
Rights granted to domestic partners in California include the right to inherit their partner's things even if they don't leave a will, the right to adopt their partner's children as their own, the right to make medical decisions for their partner, the right to use sick leave at work to care for their sick partner or their partner's child, and the ability to put their partner and children on their employer-provided health care plan.
Domestic partners are not guaranteed the same rights in all states, and domestic partnerships are not recognized by the US government. Couples considering filing for a domestic partnership should first seek legal advice.