“Goin’ to the Travis County Clerks Office and we’re goin’ to get Domestic Partnered,” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Goin to the Chapel’”, but for many of us in the Austin area that is the only legally recognized form in which a gay or lesbian couple can register their relationship.
Many of you may remember the big Proposition 2 battle in 2005 when the Texas state constitution was amended to read, “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” This amendment was made in addition to the fact that Texas law already stated: “A license may not be issued for the marriage of persons of the same sex.” Therefore, it is very clear that the state of Texas will not honor marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions. So you may want to run off to Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts or Vermont where you and your partner can legally marry, but those marriage rights won’t be coming back to Texas with you.
So, how can we recognize our relationships? Alisa Weldon, my partner and I just had a commitment ceremony presided over by a non-denominational minister. It sure felt like a wedding as our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and the like witnessed it. The newspaper even carried the announcement in their pages. I feel different having gone through the experience, but in reality, nothing is different, at least legally speaking.
Travis County is the only county in Texas that has a domestic partner registry. The registry is located in the Recording Division where they preserve all documents pertaining to real property records as well as issue marriage licenses. I am happy to report that it is less expensive to get partnered ($20) than it is to get married ($71) and all you have to do is appear together at the County Clerks office on Airport Boulevard, provide proper ID and be at least 18 years old. Not many of us are taking advantage of this bargain, as only about 30 couples have registered year-to-date.
How we define our relationships is an intimately personal matter. The laws and regulations, however, are anything but personal. If you have found that special someone in your life, do your homework. Make sure that you have taken advantage of all the resources available via your estate attorney, CPA, financial advisor and even local government to protect who you define to be your family.
RELATIONSHIP RECOGNITION IN THE U.S.
Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont
RECOGNIZES THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGES OF OTHER JURISDICTIONS: New York
PROVIDES THE EQUIVALENT STATE-LEVEL SPOUSAL RIGHTS TO SAME-SEX COUPLES: California, Oregon, New Hampshire and New Jersey
PROVIDES SOME STATEWIDE SPOUSAL RIGHTS: Hawaii, Maine, Washington