LGBT couples in Minnesota often struggle to find the right representation when it comes to handling family law matters. Many of the so-called social norms were established with heterosexual couples in mind, leaving many people in the LGBT community confused about their rights and their options. Same-sex couples are often surprised to discover that they have far more rights of which they might have previously not been aware.
Society's view about personal relationships is undergoing major changes before our eyes. Just a few years ago, same-sex couples marrying in Minnesota wasn't legal. Now it is.
Marriages entered into in Minnesota require meeting a certain set of criteria. The statute language under chapter 517 of the Domestic Relations code lays out the formula quite clearly.
More and more research demonstrates just how much the concept of family has changed over the last 25 years. Divorce is no longer a tragedy; blended families, mixed-race families, same-sex families, multi-generational families, single-parent families -- the "traditional" nuclear family of father, mother and their 2.3 biological children will soon be a distant memory.
The question is both rhetorical and practical. As more and more states legalize same-sex marriage, pundits are questioning whether domestic partnerships have become obsolete. Domestic partnerships were never a "marriage alternative," at least to same-sex marriage advocates: Most states limited the benefits of domestic partnerships to the right to be recognized as next-of-kin in a health care emergency.
In the most unromantic of terms, marriage is a legally binding contract between two people. By being married, certain rights and obligations are defined. However, an unmarried couple -- worried about rights and obligations -- can also have a legal contract, often referred to as a cohabitation agreement. This agreement can spell out things such as property division and debt division, in the event of a break up.
The domestic partnership registry still exists in Minneapolis, even now that same-sex marriage is legal here. Under the law, unmarried couples -- same-sex or opposite-sex -- can form a bond stronger than cohabitation but not quite as powerful as marriage. As we have discussed over the past couple of weeks, the main benefit granted by the city is the right to visit a domestic partner in a hospital or care facility. Most of the other benefits are at the discretion of a partner's employer.
We are still discussing the basics of a domestic partnership in Minneapolis. In our last post, we talked about who can enter into a domestic partnership and what the registration process is.
In a strange way, the idea of a domestic partnership seems a bit old-fashioned nowadays. The push for same-sex marriage in Minnesota long ago eclipsed what early advocates for same-sex relationships saw as the thin end of the wedge, a small step toward full equality.