Civil Unions and the Meaning of the Public Policy Exception at the Boundaries of Domestic Relations Law

39 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2006 Last revised: 17 Sep 2015

See all articles by Emily J. Sack

Emily J. Sack

Roger Williams University School of Law

Date Written: 2005


Though interjurisdictional recognition of same-sex marriage has been the focus of both public and scholarly attention in recent years, the issue of granting such recognition to civil unions may be even more complex. While there is an existing body of law regarding interstate recognition of marriages, which can provide direction for the treatment of same-sex marriages, civil unions are more difficult to place in the existing full faith and credit framework. Moreover, with the recent legislation in New Jersey bringing the number of states establishing the civil union as a legal status to three, the issue of granting full faith and credit to out-of-state civil unions becomes even more pressing. This Article examines whether civil unions may have a stronger basis for full faith and credit recognition than same-sex marriages.

However a review of full faith and credit jurisprudence generally, as well as the case law focusing on interstate recognition of marriage or civil unions, demonstrates that the alternative of civil unions may actually create more complications in this area. Despite the initial appeal of arguments that the civil union concept is a compromise that will be more acceptable to society than same-sex marriage, the long history of recognition of marriage in both constitutional analysis and state statutory schemes provides a stronger foundation for the recognition of same-sex marriages throughout the states. The Article concludes that the better strategy for those supporting interstate recognition of same-sex relationships is to focus on same-sex marriage.

Keywords: Same-Sex Marriage, Full Faith and Credit, Civil Unions

Suggested Citation

Sack, Emily, Civil Unions and the Meaning of the Public Policy Exception at the Boundaries of Domestic Relations Law (2005). Ave Maria Law Review, Vol. 3, p. 497, 2005, Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 37, Available at SSRN:

Emily Sack (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )

10 Metacom Avenue
Bristol, RI 02809
United States

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