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A domestic partnership is a marriage alternative, usually but not always reserved for same-sex couples. It is a nonmarital relationship between two adults who live together as a couple, usually for a significant period of time. Domestic partnerships are recognized as equivalent to marriage for the purpose of conferring employee-partner benefits otherwise reserved for spouses. Domestic partnerships are currently recognized by California, Maine, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington, D.C. Hawaii offers a similar arrangement called a “reciprocal beneficiaries” law. The details of domestic partnerships differ greatly between jurisdictions, so check with a lawyer in your jurisdiction if you have specific questions about domestic partnerships where you live.
Domestic partnerships are not recognized by the state of North Carolina, although businesses and municipal governments are permitted to offer benefits to domestic partners. Some municipalities have voted to do so, including the towns of Carborro and Chapel Hill. Orange County, Durham County, and the City of Durham offer health insurance to employee’s domestic partners.