A civil union is a legally-recognized domestic union offered in some jurisdictions as a substitute for marriage, generally to same-sex couples. Civil unions are intended to give same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities they would have if legally married, without extending marriage to include same-sex partnerships.
Civil unions exist in many countries, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Sweden. Civil unions and similar 'domestic partnerships' are offered in several U.S. states.
Civil unions generally confer rights including co-parenting, the ability to make decisions for a partner who is medically incapacitated, access to family health plans, and some tax benefits.
Civil unions appeal to people of many political backgrounds because they offer some of the rights and recognition of traditional marriage to same-sex couples while keeping traditional marriage heterosexual. Some social conservatives condemn the idea of civil unions because they condone homosexuality, which they see as immoral, or that the value of marriage my be lessened by the existence of a near-identical legal concept without the social or religious history of marriage. There is also a fear that civil unions may be a first step towards the abolition of traditional marriage. This is especially true in those areas where there are civil unions, but there is still a push to have marriage redefined to include homosexuality. Other people believe that civil unions are not an appropriate substitute for the legalization of same-sex marriage in those cases where they do not offer the same rights as traditional marriage. Some also believe that civil unions create segregation between same-sex and opposite-sex couples under the umbrella of "separate but equal" services.
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