In 2004, Maine began to offer domestic partnerships to both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Domestic partnerships in Maine offer a few benefits to registered partners that were originally only enjoyed by married couples. These partnerships were created to make it possible for same-sex couples to have some legal protections.
To be able to register as domestic partners, Maine couples must meet certain criteria:
- Each domestic partner must be a competent adult.
- The domestic partners have been legally domiciled together in Maine for at least 12 months preceding the filing.
- Neither person is married or in a registered domestic partnership with another person.
- Each person intends to be the sole domestic partner of the other, and expects to remain so.
Maine legalized same-sex marriage in 2012. However, as of 2015, same-sex marriage is legal in the whole of the United States. Marriage to a partner terminates the former domestic partnership. However, note that domestic partnerships cannot automatically convert to marriage.
Registered domestic partners in Maine enjoy some of the same benefits as married couples do. Examples of these benefits are:
- Registered partners take precedence over other family members to act as a guardian if one partner becomes disabled.
- Registered partners have the right to inherit from one another without a will.
- Registered partners can visit each other in the hospital.
- Registered partners may benefit from some employee health insurance policies.
Domestic partners will not enjoy all of the benefits that the state gives to married couples, and in some circumstances this may be perfectly fine. Additionally, domestic partnerships may limit eligibility for certain federal benefits and may not be recognized in other states and countries. Thus, choosing to register under a domestic partnership or opting to marry will depend on the specific needs and wishes of the couple.
There are significant differences between the rights and responsibilities Maine conveys through marriage and domestic partnerships. A Maine attorney will be able to explain both to you and help you resolve any issues that you may have with either, such as dissolving a marriage or enforcing your domestic partnership rights.