A quarter-century of civil recognition of same-sex relationships

Today, 25 years ago, we celebrate the first civil recognition of same-sex couples. On 1 October 1989, Denmark made history with approving a law for gender-neutral “registered partnerships” (registreret partnerskab). Among the first couples to be partnered in civil unions were activists Axel and Eigil Axgil, who had spent most of their 40-year-coupled lives fighting for rights for LGBT people in their country. Another couple that registered their union, Ivan Larsen, an ordained minister of the state-supported Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark, and Ove Carlsen, a psychologist, were profiled in this recent BBC Witness clip:


via BBC News – The day same-sex civil unions became legal in Denmark.

What fascinates me about this is how things may have been different if civil unions, rather than marriage, would have remained the popular wisdom. What if the United States had been more accepting to civil unions at the federal level, and had not placed DOMA into place as a bulwark against any federal recognition? Even more so, even in the post-DOMA era of federal recognition for same-sex marriages, the present lack of federal recognition of state-level civil unions is perplexing.

Right now, there are three states which still have only domestic partnerships or civil unions: Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado. Waiting for the judicial trajectory to move marriage equality to more states still doesn’t speak to the issue of unequal civil recognition of relationships, or the obvious overall federal favoritism to marriage as opposed to civil unions.

I’m of the opinion that marriage and civil unions should both be available as options to both same- and opposite-sex couples, at both federal and state levels.


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