Definitions

SENATE, No. 2175

By Mr. Berry, a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 2175) of Frederick E. Berry and Joan M. Menard for legislation relative to the creation of civil unions in the Commonwealth

AN ACT RELATIVE TO CIVIL UNIONS

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. The general court finds: (a) that the commonwealth's policy is to encourage close and caring families, and to protect all family members from the economic and social consequences of abandonment and divorce; (b) that recognition of civil marriage by the commonwealth has been the primary and, in many instances, the exclusive source of numerous benefits, responsibilities and protections under the laws of the commonwealth for married persons and their children; (c) that despite longstanding social and economic discrimination, many same-sex couples have formed lasting, committed, caring and faithful relationships and families; (d) that these couples live together, participate in their communities together, and some raise children and care for family members together; (e) that without the legal protections, benefits, rights and responsibilities associated with civil marriage, same-sex couples and their families suffer numerous obstacles and hardships;(f) that the general court should carefully approach changes in the way significant legal relationships are defined, combining respect for the community and cultural institutions most affected with a commitment to the constitutional rights involved; and (g) that the Commonwealth's laws should be revised to give same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the legal protections, benefits, rights and responsibilities associated with civil marriage, while preserving the traditional, historic nature and meaning of the institution of civil marriage.

SECTION 2. The purpose of this act is to provide eligible same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities afforded to opposite sex couples by the marriage laws of the commonwealth, without entering into a marriage. It is the public policy of the commonwealth that spouses in a civil union under this act shall have all the benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities afforded by the marriage laws.

SECTION 3. Paragraph (a) of subsection 19 of section 4 of chapter 151B of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2002 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following 3 subparagraphs: -

(9) make any distinction, consistent with federal laws, between married spouses and civilly joined spouses with regard to the offering of insurance benefits to a couple, a married spouse, a spouse in a civil union, or their family; (10) fail to offer to a couple joined in civil union, spouses in a civil union, and their families the same insurance contracts or policy offered to married couples, spouses, and their families;

(11) discriminate between spouses in a civil union and spouses in a marriage.

SECTION 4. Section 4 of said chapter 151B, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following subsection: -

20. For any person to discriminate on the basis of a person's being joined in a civil union rather than a marriage, or on the basis of a person's being joined in a marriage rather than a civil union.

SECTION 5. The General Laws are hereby amended by inserting after chapter 207 the following chapter:-

CHAPTER 207A.

CIVIL UNIONS

Section 1.As used in this chapter the following words shall have the following meanings, unless the context requires otherwise:

 "Certificate of civil union", a document that certifies that the persons named on the certificate have established a civil union in the commonwealth in compliance with this chapter.

 "Civil union",a relationship established between 2 persons pursuant to this chapter.

 "Law", any law of the commonwealth, or of any of its political subdivisions, or of any entity established to serve a public purpose, whether defined by statute, agency or court rule or regulation, ordinance, by-law, policy, common law or other source of civil law.

 "Registry", the registry of vital statistics in the department of public health.

 "Spouse in a civil union", a person who has established a civil union under this chapter.

 Section 2.Two persons may form a civil union if they meet the following criteria and those set forth in chapter 207 as if a civil union were a marriage under chapter 207: (i) are of the same sex; (ii) are not within the degree of consanguinity defined for a man or woman by sections 1 and 2 of chapter 207, or within the degree of affinity defined by section 3 of chapter 207; (iii) are not in a civil union or marriage with any other living person in conformity with section 4 of chapter 207; and (iv) are not under 18 years of age unless sections 24 and 25 of chapter 207 apply. The prohibition of marriage by persons within the degree of affinity defined by section 3 of chapter 207 shall apply as if a civil union were a marriage. For purposes of section 4 of chapter 207, a former civil union shall constitute a former marriage.

 Section 3. Persons eligible to form a civil union with each other under this chapter shall not be eligible to enter into a marriage with each other under chapter 207.

 Section 4. (a) A civil union shall provide those joined in it with a legal status equivalent to marriage and shall be treated under law as a marriage. All laws applicable to marriage shall also apply to civil unions.

 (b) Spouses in a civil union shall have all the same benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities under law as are granted to spouses in a marriage.

 (c) Spouses in a civil union shall be included in any definition or use of the terms "spouse," "family," "immediate family," "dependent," "next of kin," "husband," "wife," and other terms that denote or include the spousal relationship, as those terms are used in any law.

 (d) The term marriage as it is used throughout the law shall be construed to include marriage and civil union.

 (e) Spouses in a civil union shall be responsible for the support of one another to the same degree and in the same manner as prescribed under law for married persons.

 (f) The law of domestic relations, including separation and divorce, child custody and support, and property division and maintenance shall apply to spouses in a civil union.

 (g) The following is a nonexclusive list of legal benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage, which shall apply in like manner to spouses in a civil union: (1) laws relating to title, tenure, descent and distribution, intestate succession, or ownership or transfer of real or personal property, including tenancy by the entirety under section 7 of chapter 184 and homestead protection under chapter 188; (2) causes of action related to or dependent upon spousal status, including actions for wrongful death, emotional distress, or other torts or actions under contracts, related to, or dependent upon spousal status; (3) probate and family law and procedure; (4) group insurance for state and municipal employees under chapters 32A and 32B; (5) veteran benefits as provided in chapter 115; (6) workers' compensation as provided in chapter 152; (7) assignment of wages as provided in chapter 154; (8) descent and distribution of real and personal property as provided in chapter 190; (9) divorce procedures as provided in chapter 208; (10) joint state income tax filing as provided in section 6 of chapter 62C; (11) wages owed a deceased employee as provided in sections 178A and 178C of chapter 149; (12) financial protections for spouses of certain public employees killed in the line of duty as provided in sections 100 to 103, inclusive, of chapter 32; and (13) evidentiary rights, including the prohibition against testifying against one another about private conversations as provided in section 20 of chapter 233.

 Section 5. Spouses in a civil union may modify the terms, conditions, or effects of their civil union in the same manner and to the same extent as married persons who execute an ante nuptial agreement or other agreement recognized and enforceable under the law, setting forth particular understandings with respect to their union.

 Section 6. The probate and family court shall have jurisdiction over all proceedings relating to the dissolution of civil unions. The dissolution of civil unions shall follow the same procedures and be subject to the same substantive rights and obligations that are involved in the dissolution of marriage in accordance with the laws applicable to marriage, including residency requirements.

 Section 7. (a) The registry shall provide civil union license and certificate forms to all city and town clerks.

 (b) The registry shall keep a record of all civil unions and the dissolution thereof.

 (c) The procedures under chapter 207 for issuing a marriage license shall apply to issuing a civil union license, as if a civil union were a marriage under chapter 207.

 Section 8. To the extent that a law adopts, refers to, or relies upon a federal law as applicable to the commonwealth, spouses in civil unions shall be treated under that law as if federal law recognized a civil union in the same manner as the law of the commonwealth.

 Section 9. (a) This chapter shall be construed liberally in order to secure to eligible couples the option of a legal status with all the attributes and effects, and benefits and protections of civil marriage. Spouses in a civil union shall have all of the same benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities under state law, whether derived from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in marriage. (b) This act is intended to extend to spouses in a civil union the benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities that flow from marriage.


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