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What is a Civil Union?

Summary

When politicians say they support civil unions but not marriage for people of the same sex, what do they mean? We find three main differences between civil unions and marriage as it’s traditionally viewed:

The right to federal benefits. States that allow some type of same-sex union are able to grant only state rights. The Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 prohibits same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage rights and benefits.
Portability.