At this time Civil Unions are only available in America in the state of Vermont. You get essentially the legal and tax benefits of marriage without the name. Variants of this are also available in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada, the Netherlands, Tasmania, Australia, Buenos Aires and a growing list of other cities and countries. They have been defeated in several U.S states however. Current and continuing legislation is attempting to change this. Because lesbians and gay men cannot marry, they have no right to:
Accidental death benefit for the surviving spouse of a government employee,
Automatic appointment as guardian of a minor,
Award of child custody in divorce proceedings,
Beneficial owner status of corporate securities,
Control, division, acquisition, and disposition of community property,
Support payments in divorce action,
Legal status with partner's children,
In vitro fertilization coverage,
Making partner medical decisions,
Death benefit for surviving spouse for government employee,
Right to automatically inherit property,
Income tax deductions, credits, rates exemption, and estimates,
Right to support after divorce or separation and right to file action for nonsupport and,
Permission to make arrangements for burial or cremation.
Those who can marry often take these rights for granted, but for gay men, lesbians and, transsexuals, these benefits are forever denied.
Alternatives to legal marriage include Holy Unions, civic registries, domestic partnership agreements and civil unions. Holy unions are performed by a church official and provide no legal rights. Civil registries are hosted by individual cities and "registering" may be required to apply for domestic partnership benefits by place of employment. Registration alone however, does not usually provide any additional legal rights. Domestic partnership agreements vary by the attorney who files them, but usually include a will, a living will, a power-of-attorney and a co-resident agreement. These don't always hold up...