Civil Unions

Vermont currently issues certificates of civil unions to same sex couples who are unable to legally obtain a marriage license. Although a civil union is not a marriage, laws allowing couples to form civil unions give those couples the same rights and benefits of spouses. However, no other state is required to recognize the civil union and the federal government does not give same-sex couples any of the benefits, protections and responsibilities that are granted to married spouses. For example, a couple that is in a civil union may not file a joint federal tax return as a married couple or receive Social Security benefits if one partner dies. Dissolution of civil unions also follows the same procedures for divorce.

Requirements For Civil Union

  • A civil union is only available to same-sex couples since they are ineligible for marriage.
  • Both parties must be at least 18 years of age, of sound mind, and not already in a marriage or in another civil union.

There is no residency requirement, and any eligible couple can obtain a civil union in Vermont.

As with marriage, no couple that is also has a parent, grandparent, sister, brother, child, grandchild, niece, nephew, aunt or uncle relationship may enter into a civil union.

Additional information on civil unions is available on the Vermont Secretary of State website at www.sec.state.vt.us/otherprg/civilunions/civilunions.html.

Property Rights

In Vermont, couples in a civil union have the same property rights as spouses. Laws concerning inheritance (such as homestead rights of a surviving spouse), ownership of real property, title to assets and causes of actions a person may have that typically are only available to a spouse (such as wrongful death) apply to couples in certified civil unions. Additionally, civil unions give the couple the right to claim insurance benefits and proceeds, retirement and worker’s compensations benefits, and family leave benefits.

SIDEBAR: By virtue of a civil union, the parties are automatically included in terms such as “spouse” or “next of kin” for any legal purpose that may arise. For example, one member of a civil union can authorize medical care for his partner since he is considered a spouse or next of kin under the law.

Who issues a civil union license?

Any town clerk in the state of Vermont will issue a civil union license to eligible couples.

Is any type of ceremony required?

Yes. Until an authorized person certifies the civil union it does not come into existence.

Does the civil union license expire?

Yes. The union must be certified within 60 days or the license expires.

Can we apply for a civil union license by mail?

No. You must apply in person and sign the application in the presence of the clerk. Additionally, a proxy is not permitted to stand in for one member of the union.

Who is authorized to certify the civil union?

Any judge or clergy member residing in the state issuing the license can certify the union.

What do we do with the civil union license once we find someone to certify it?

The judge or clergy member must sign and date the license at which time it becomes a civil union certificate. The certificate must be filed with the town clerk that originally issued it (as a license) within 10 days after the date it was signed by the person who certified it.