Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage

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Two people committed to one another look for social settings where they can live together and share their lives. There are many options for couples today. Two of these options are Civil Union and Marriage.

Civil Union vs. Marriage

The Major Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage is that Civil Union provides legal recognition to couples so that they can receive benefits similar to those of married couples, with the exception of child adoption rights and the title of being married. Marriage is, however, both culturally and legally recognized.

A civil union is the legal recognition of two individuals who are not married. This institution was born out of the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community. The institution was created to legalize gay relationships so that married couples have the same rights and benefits.

The institution of marriage culturally and legally recognizes the union between two people. It also establishes kinship between them and their families and their children. Its origins can be traced back as antiquity when it was an institution that allowed interpersonal and especially sexual relationships between individuals.

Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage in Tabular Form

Parameters for Comparison

Civil Union



Civil Union is a legal agreement that recognizes couples who are LGBTQIA+. It can also be used for heterosexual couples.

The legal and cultural recognition of marriage between two people establishes a relationship of kinship.

Also known as

Civil Union can be described by many terms, including domestic partnership, registered partnership and civil partnership.

Matrimony is also known as wedlock or matrimony.

History and Emergence

To give legal recognition to non-heterosexual couples and to provide certain benefits, the Civil Union was created. In 1989, they were legalized for the first time in Denmark. They have since been adopted by other countries.

The institution of marriage was established to recognize and sanction sexual and interpersonal relationships. It can be traced back to antiquity.

Mode of Entry

Signing a civil partnership agreement between two partners allows them to enter into a civil union.

You can either have your marriage in a religious setting or in a civil setting.


Only certain countries recognize civil unions, such as the United States, UK, Croatia and Italy.

Although the definition of marriage is different in each culture and time, it is a universal phenomenon.

Rights and benefits

Civil unions have rights that are similar to those of married couples, with the exception of title and adoption of children.

Married couples have certain rights, such as child adoption, tax breaks and access to loans.


Dissolution is the final step in a Civil Union. Adultery is not an acceptable reason for dissolution.

Divorce is the end of the marriage. Divorce can be triggered by adultery.

The table shows the Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage. We will know all the details by diving deep into the topic in the next section of the content.

What is Civil Union?

Civil Union is a legal institution that recognizes the relationship between two persons who are not married. This institution was created in certain countries to legalize the relationship between two people of the same-sex and to give them some rights and benefits that are not available to married couples.

Civil unions are not universal, unlike a marriage. Only a few countries, such as the United Kingdom, USA, and Denmark, have Civil Unions. Only a few countries, such as the United Kingdom, USA, and Denmark, have such arrangements. Different countries have different names for the idea of a Civil Union, such as a domestic partnership or registered partnership, civil partner, reciprocal beneficiary relationship, and so on. Different countries have different rights and benefits for civil union couples.

Signing a civil partnership agreement allows two people to form a Civil Union. They can then access certain benefits such as tax breaks and financial benefits, like loans, that are only available to married couples. The Civil Union can be ended with dissolution, but adultery cannot be used as a reason.

In the past, Civil Unions were only open to couples who were in a heterosexual relationships. The distinction between the two has become blurred with the legalization of gay marriage. Heterosexual couples today prefer civil union to marriage because of its cultural aspects.

What rights does a civil union grant?

Civil unions are often recognized and issued in states that still recognize them. These protections generally include:

  • Estate planning: If your spouse dies, you can inherit all their assets, without paying taxes.
  • Employment: Your spouse's benefits such as health insurance and employment, can cover you. You also have the right to bereavement leave if your spouse dies.
  • Healthcare: If your spouse is ill, you may be able to make medical decisions for them.
  • Parental rights: Your spouse and you may have joint parental rights over your children.
  • Property: If one spouse dies, you may be co-owners of the property and have the right to survivorship.
  • Separation: Alimony can be sought if the civil union has been dissolved.
  • Spousal privilege: Your spouse cannot be made to testify against you in court.
  • Taxes: It is possible to file both state and federal taxes together. Federal taxes must still be filed separately.

These rights are identical in marriage. However, civil union partners only have the right to these protections within their state. Civil unions do not give couples the same federal benefits as marriage.

Who is eligible to enter into a civil partnership

Civil partnerships are more complex. These partnerships were created in 2004 to allow same-sex couples to have the same legal rights and benefits as married couples.

They were therefore not available to mixed-sex couples. However, this did not stop one heterosexual couple from deciding to break with the norm and enter into a civil partnership. Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld discovered that they were legally incapable of filing a petition.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in their favor, and then-prime Minister Theresa May announced that civil partnerships would now be available to heterosexual couples. Steinfeld and Keidan entered into a civil partnership.

31 December 2019 was when 167 opposite-sex partners entered into a civil partnership. In England and Wales, 994 civil partnerships were formed in 2019.

Since that day, in England and Wales, it has been legal for every couple to enter into a civil partnership. It was legalized in Northern Ireland in 2020 and Scotland in 2021.

What is marriage?

Marriage is a legally and culturally supported social institution that recognizes the union between two people and establishes a relationship of kinship. They can also have a family. It is believed that it was created to allow interpersonal, especially sexual unions between people.

Matrimony, also known as wedlock, is a form of marriage during a ceremony called a "wedding." A wedding can be either a religious ceremony where the couple takes vows or a civil affair in which the couple signs documents.

Marriage is more than legal recognition. It also has cultural significance. Because of its many forms, it is considered an institution universal. The cultural force of marriage is thought to increase social cohesion by sanctioning heterosexual relationships. Married couples receive a range of social security benefits, including tax breaks, child adoption, easy immigration, and joint loans.

There are many marriage options, including polygamy and polyandry as well as monogamy. Many of these marriages are legal in different regions of the globe, but most of them only allow heterosexual relationships. The LGBTQIA+ community demanded that homosexual marriages be legalized, and some countries have accepted it.

Who can get married

Heterosexual couples have always had the option of marriage. The UK passed legislation in 2014 allowing for same-sex marriage. This means that everyone can marry in the UK, except in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriages are not allowed. In Northern Ireland, same-sex couples who have married in England or Wales will be considered civil partners.

Couples who want to wed can notify their local register office of their intent to marry. The same-sex couple can get married in civil ceremonies. However, they cannot get married in religious ceremonies unless their religious organization has approved marrying the same-sex couple. Same-sex couples cannot get married in either the Church of England or the Church in Wales.

This means that anyone 16 years or older, who is not married or in a civil relationship, and who is not related to their partner, can legally get married.

What federal benefits are marriages eligible for?

These rights are in addition to those granted to couples by the federal government. These include:

It is important to evaluate which option is best for you and your family, given the above differences. Although a prenuptial arrangement is not the most romantic thing on your wedding planning list, it is the best way to protect yourself and your assets before you enter into a marriage or civil partnership. Any questions you may have about the process can be answered by a lawyer.

  • Immigration: Married and engaged people can file visa petitions to sponsor a spouse, fiancee, or friend who isn’t a citizen.
  • Social Security: While the Social Security Administration (SSA), does not guarantee it will recognize every civil union when determining eligibility for benefits it does recognize all marriages. Regardless of whether you are married or in a civil union, the SSA encourages everyone to apply for benefits.
  • Tax: Federal taxes can be filed jointly.
  • Veterans: Spouses of veterans who are still living may be eligible to receive health insurance, education assistance and home loan programs.

Converting civil partnership into marriage

It is possible to get married if you have been in a civil partnership since before 2014. Your civil partnership can be converted into a legal marriage in Britain.

A couple might choose to have a civil partnership for many reasons, including the desire to keep their sexuality secret. As you are effectively declaring your sexuality, declaring you are a civil partner on official forms is known as a "forced outing". Civil partnerships were only available to same-sex couples until now.

You can convert your civil partnership in England or Wales into marriage at any registered office, local registration office, or religious or approved premises that allow same-sex marriages.

Scotland has different rules, so different paperwork is needed. Northern Ireland doesn't allow the conversion of civil partnerships into marriage.

The similarities between civil and marriage

There are many rights that civil partners share with each other, which are very similar to those shared by married couples. They have the same property rights, and pension benefits, and can take parental responsibility for their child.

They have the same rights as married couples in hospitals and are exempt from inheritance taxes.

There are many similarities between civil partnerships and marriage in terms of legal issues that could have an effect on couples' daily lives.

Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage in Points

Let’s find out some of the Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage in the following section:

  1. The idea of origin is what makes Civil Union and Marriage different. Although Civil Unions were created to legalize same-sex relationships in the United States, Marriage was established to recognize and accept the union of two persons.
  2. A document called the "Civil Partnership Agreement" can be signed by two people to create a Civil Union. A Marriage can also be performed in either a civil or religious setting.
  3. While Civil Unions are recognized in certain parts of the world as a form of union, Marriage is almost universally accepted.
  4. Civil Union and marriage offer similar benefits to couples, including tax benefits, financial benefits and visiting rights. Except for child adoption which is only available to married couples.
  5. The Civil Union ends with a "dissolution", while the Marriage ends with a "divorce". Separation is possible in Civil Union cases, but not for Marriage.


Thus we conclude the topic of the Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage. Civil Union and Marriage allow couples to live together for life. Civil Union was created to allow homosexual relationships in a world that only allowed heterosexual marriages. Some countries have legalized gay marriages as a result of the growing acceptance of LGBTQIA+ rights. A patriarchal view of marriage is also influencing heterosexual couples to choose civil unions.

These developments blur the distinction between Civil Union (or Marriage) and Marriage. Both are legal arrangements, but the former is formal, while the latter is cultural.


  1. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/vlr30SSion=40
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1929-01974-00



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"Difference Between Civil Union and Marriage." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 18 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-civil-union-and-marriage-254>.

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