To clear up what some are saying about civil unions and civil marriage, here are some of the really important differences. This whole issue has become our civil rights issue of the new millennium and all myths regarding it need to be exposed.
Portability - Marriages are respected state to state for all purposes, but questions remain about how civil unions will be treated in other states. They need to be recognized nationally.
Ending a Civil Union - If you are married, you can get divorced in any state in which you are a resident. But if states continue to disrespect civil unions, there is no other way to end the relationship other than by establishing residency in Vermont and filing for a divorce there.
Federal Benefits - According to a 1997 GAO report, civil marriage brings with it 1,049 legal protections and responsibilities from the federal government, including the right to take leave from work to care for a family member, the right to sponsor a spouse for immigration purposes, and Social Security survivor benefits that can make the difference between old age in poverty and old age in security. Civil Unions bring none of these critical legal protections.
Taxes & Public Benefits for the Family - Because the federal government does not respect Civil unions, a couple with a civil union will be in a kind of limbo with regard to government functions performed by both state and federal governments, such as taxation, pension protections, provision of insurance for families, and means-tested programs like Medicaid. Even when states try to provide legal protections, they may be foreclosed from doing so in joint federal/state programs.
Filling out forms -Every day, we fill out forms that ask us whether we are married or single. People joined with Civil Unions should be able to identify themselves as a single family unit, but misrepresenting oneself on official documents can be considered fraud and carries potential serious criminal penalties.
Separate & Unequal - Second-Class Status - Even if there were no substantive differences in the way the law treated marriages and civil unions, the fact that a civil union remains a separate status just for gay people represents real and powerful inequality.
We've been down this road before in this country and should not kid ourselves that this is an issue of equality for all Americans. We've come a long way, but will never achieve total equality until the institution of marriage applies to EVERYONE with No exceptions.
As an old hippie that believes in love and peace, I would feel so much better about this country if gays and lesbians were given equal marriage rights with the rest of the population.