Like a legal marriage, a civil union accepts a couple’s rights and responsibilities under state law. A gay couple has the ability to file joint state tax returns, and a partner has the right to inherit any property from a deceased spouse. Additionally, same sex couples have the same type of legal proceedings as a married couple, such as annulments, divorces, and court proceedings dealing with children. Although there are many ways that make it like a legal marriage, a civil union still separates gay couples from the rest of the United States.
When this is said, it means that a gay couple will not be recognized in other states where civil unions are not legal. For example, healthcare programs may not recognize couples that have taken part in civil unions. They are not entitled to rights that are governed by the federal law. Although they have rights in their state, the federal government will not recognize them as a married couple. This means they do not have the right to receive social security benefits, and they cannot file joint federal tax returns.
In 1997, the General Accounting Office released 1,049 Benefits and Protections Available to Heterosexual Married Couples. Obviously, legal married couples have the right to these benefits. While civil unions allow some of these benefits and protections to gay couples, they do not have the right to all of them.