Florida State Law on Domestic Partner Benefits

By Teo Spengler

Updated November 17, 2017

Before 2015, many states, including Florida, banned same-sex marriages. But more than a few state legislatures enacted laws allowing same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners to register to receive some legal rights. Florida, however, was not one of them. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional, and domestic partnerships became of less importance. Still, a few cities and counties in Florida offer a registration program for domestic partnerships and/or extend benefits to them.

Florida Domestic Partnership Laws

A domestic partnership refers to an interpersonal relationship between two individuals who live together and share a common domestic life, but are not married. These partnerships, which can be between same-sex or opposite-sex couples, are essentially civil unions in which each person is committed to the other. They were designed as a substitute for marriage when marriage is not permitted by a state, as was long the case for same-sex couples in many states. Some jurisdictions, mostly, but not exclusively, those in the West and Northeast, allowed registration of the partnership and mandated that employers treat domestic partners as married in terms of family benefits.

Florida was not one of those states that offered domestic partnership registration. A bill to authorize clerks of the court to create domestic partnership registries died in the judiciary committee in the Florida senate on 2013. A scattering of counties offered some protection to domestic partners. For example, Miami-Dade County created a domestic partner registry and offered hospital and jail visitation rights to partners. But at least 60 counties in Florida did not take any steps to recognize domestic partnerships.

Obergefell and Domestic Partnership in Florida

In June, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Obergefell case, which challenged the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriages. The court found that the laws forbidding same-sex marriages violated the U.S. Constitution. Under that ruling, all states are legally obligated to license same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages entered into in other states.

Very soon after Obergefell was decided, Florida legalized same-sex marriages. Once marriage equality was mandated under federal law, the urgent need for domestic partnerships evaporated. Since marriage is available to all couples, regardless of gender, it is no longer essential to have a program enabling unmarried couples to receive family benefits and have rights under the law. Many employers no longer extend benefits to domestic partners since they can marry if they like.

Some couples prefer to remain domestic partners rather than marry. But the status of domestic partnerships in states, counties and cities remains uncertain and fluid. As of late 2017, some counties in Florida, such as Broward County, continue to extend benefits to domestic partners and also to provide a domestic partner registry. The city of West Palm Beach also extends benefits to domestic partners. But many of the counties and cities that had stepped forward to offer domestic partnership benefits no longer do so.


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How to Register a Domestic Partner in Texas

By Teo Spengler

Updated March 15, 2018

Texas is not the most liberal state in the union, nor has it been one of the more welcoming to the LGBTQ community. Currently, most counties in the Lone Star State allow same-sex marriage, but none permit domestic partner registration. However, employees of most big cities can register a domestic partner and thus obtain health benefits.


Don’t look to Texas for liberal LGBTQ laws. Thanks to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, same-sex marriage is now legal in Texas, but the only entities that recognize domestic partners are a handful of cities in Texas that permit employees to get health benefits by filing a domestic partnership affidavit.

History of Texas LGBTQ Laws

For many years, the LGBTQ community used domestic partnerships as an alternative to marriage in places where same-sex marriage was not permitted. To create a domestic partnership, two people register their relationship at a governmental office, declaring that they are engaged in a committed relationship. Domestic partnerships offer some of the same benefits that marriage offers, such as the right to coverage under family health insurance, family and bereavement leave, and visiting rights in hospitals and jails.

The Texas legislature banned same-sex marriage in Texas in 2003. The state attorney general opined that this ban also applied to registration of domestic partnerships. However, in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court entered a ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same sex couples have a Constitutionally protected right to marry. Texas complied, with the exception of several counties, and today, same-sex couples can marry in most jurisdictions of Texas.

Domestic Partnership in Texas

Given the universal right to marry, domestic partnerships are now of limited import. Since Texas did not permit domestic partnership registration before the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, few counties or jurisdictions offer it now.

Several Texas cities provided health insurance to the domestic partners of city workers, including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. They continue to do so today. Each of the cities defines the term slightly differently, and the registration process is also slightly different among the cities.

For example, in Austin, "domestic partner" is defined as: "The individual who lives in the same household and shares the common resources of life in a close, personal, intimate relationship with a City employee if, under Texas law, the individual would not be prevented from marrying the employee on account of age, consanguinity, or prior undissolved marriage to another. A domestic partner may be of the same or opposite gender as the employee."

To register with these cities as domestic partners, the employee and the partner must file an affidavit swearing that they fit the definition of domestic partner. They also swear that they will inform the city if they no longer meet the definition.

In order to register with these cities as domestic partners, the employee and the partner must file an affidavit swearing that they fit the definition of domestic partner. They also swear that they will inform the city if they no longer meet the definition.


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Non-Registered Domestic Partner Laws in California

By Jack Ori

partners_occupation image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com

California allows domestic partners--people who live together without being married--to register with the state and receive some of the benefits accorded to married couples, most notably the right to be covered by the partner's employee health insurance. Domestic partnerships must meet certain criteria for registration. Some people choose not to register for various reasons; these people do not get employee health coverage or other benefits.

Registration Eligibility

Only same sex couples or opposite sex couples where one partner is over the age of 62 may register as domestic partners in the state of California. Domestic partners must share a residence to be eligible. Opposite sex couples pay a registration fee of $10, as of 2010, while same sex couples must pay a fee of $33 to register. Eligible couples may choose not to register; however, to get benefits associated with domestic partnerships, couples must register. Couples must register with the state of California to receive benefits, not just with the city they live in.

Employee Health Insurance

California State Assembly Bill 2208 requires all employers to provide health insurance for employees and their registered domestic partners. By law, employers do not have to cover unregistered domestic partners, although they can choose to do so if they so desire. In general, employers cover unregistered domestic partners if they are not eligible for registration rather than because they have chosen not to register.

Reasons People Do Not Register

California considers the names and addresses of registered domestic partners to be public information and will offer this information upon request. Some domestic partners may not feel comfortable with this lack of privacy. In addition, same sex marriage is not legal in California, as of June 2010. Some same-sex couples may choose not to register because they want the right to marry their partners or because they feel the higher registration fee for same-sex couples is discriminatory.



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