From Domestic Partnership to Marriage

In August 1979, gay rights activist Tom Brougham proposed a new category of relationship called “domestic partnership” to address the inequality of job benefits only extending to heterosexually married couples.  Tom and a group of dedicated LGBTQ activists, which included my husband Leland Traiman, brought the concept of Domestic Partnership to the Berkeley School Board, then to Berkeley City employees. From Berkeley, the idea spread to San Francisco, then to corporations, then nationally, then internationally. Civil Union is another term for the same idea.

Registering for a domestic partnership was a way of documenting a relationship when same-sex marriage was forbidden. That document could then be used to qualify for corporate or municipal spousal benefits.  This is a very brief timeline of domestic partnership adoption.

  • 1979 – Tom Brougham and Barry Warren conceptualize DP
  • 1982 – Village Voice become the first private company to offer DP Benefits to employees
  • Aug 1984 – Berkeley Education Board adopts DP for employees
  • Dec 1984 – Berkeley City Hall adopts DP for city employees
  • Nov 1985 – West Hollywood created the first local Domestic Partner Registry
  • 1989 – San Francisco, repealed DP, then reinstated 1990
  • Oct 11, 1991 – Berkeley opened the first world-wide Domestic Partner Registry. Anyone in the world could pay a $30 fee to get a certificate to show employers.
  • 1992 – Lotus Development Corp becomes the first publicly-traded company with DP Benefits
  • 1995 – Vermont is the first state to offer DP benefits to employees
  • 1997 – Hawaii is the first state to offer DP benefits state-wide
  • 1999 – California passed DP that went into effect Jan 1, 2000
  • 2005 – California passed Comprehensive DP that gave all rights and privileges as married people.

In 2012, Jim Chambers’ released a documentary capturing interviews from that first grassroots LGBTQ group in Berkeley, Ca. This is a vital documentary for LGBTQ historians.

Genealogists may have access to Domestic Partner registries.

Check with local municipalities or state governments on their privacy policies around DP records. Domestic Partnerships can also be ended by filing termination paperwork. These records may also be available to the public.

Adoption of Domestic Partnerships around the globe softened world opinion toward acceptance of same-sex marriage.

This is a recent world map from Wikipedia commons showing countries that allow Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnerships, and Civil Unions today. This map is frequently updated.

World marriage-equality laws (up to date)

Citizen Change Facebook Page

Citizen Change on IMDB

A big thank you to everyone who fought, and are still fighting, for our rights to marry around the world and through the years.