The establishment of domestic partnerships gave same-sex couples the ability to have their relationship legally recognized by their state with many of the same legal protections and remedies as heterosexual married couples. Oregon established domestic partnerships in 2008 under the Oregon Family Fairness Act. Under the Act, same-sex couples could register their relationship as a domestic partnership and get all of the rights, responsibilities, penalties, and benefits conferred to opposite-sex spouses.
A domestic partnerships is a civil contract between two people of the same sex who are both at least eighteen years old. Both parties to the contract must be legally capable of contracting. At least one of the partners must be a resident of Oregon. The number each year since 2008 of same sex couples that register for a domestic partnership status has waned. The number significantly decreased beginning in 2014, which is the year that Oregon legalized same-sex marriage.
In the inaugural year for Oregon domestic partnerships, over 2,600 same-sex couples registered their domestic partnership. Over the next few years, the numbers average to approximately 600 registrations per year. Although the numbers did not reach anywhere near the 2008 amount, the average was relatively high and stayed consistent. The dramatic and steady decline of registered domestic partnership began with the 2014 year where the numbers dropped from one-half to one-fifth. With the option for same-sex couples to legally marry, that may have affected the number of same-sex couples who entered into registered domestic partnerships. After 2015, the number of registered domestic partnerships each year did not reach one hundred.
Domestic partnership do not have all of the same rights that a legal marriage does. Many of the difference are in federal laws and programs. Federal law do not recognize registered domestic marriage as legal spouse. Therefore, many benefits and legal rights that specifically are afforded to spouses do not apply to domestic partners. However, there are still advantages of a domestic partnership.
Every year individuals, couples, business associations, and organizations file federal and state tax. Filers may have tax benefits, deductions, and penalties that affect the final amount of the tax return. Some filers may get back money back while others may have to pay a tax debt.
For Oregon couples, the federal and state tax law may provide specific tax treatment depending on whether the couples are married spouses or registered domestic partners. Married under federal law, Oregon registered domestic partners cannot file as married on a federal tax return. Married couples can file their federal taxes as married filing separately or married filing jointly. Because registered domestic partners are not considered married under state law, they are not married for federal tax purposes. Therefore, they cannot use the marital filing status for their federal tax returns. However, under Oregon tax laws, registered domestic partners are treated as married persons for filing state taxes. The partners may file as married separately or married jointly. State law does not allow registered domestic partners to file as single on their tax returns. If registered domestic partners file jointly, they are jointly responsible for tax debts. Joint filing also means that the partners are to partake in the tax benefits such as, exemptions, deductions, and credits.
To get married, Oregon law require the prospective spouses to perform a solemnization ceremony. Solemnization is a formal ceremony that enter to people into marriage. However, state law does not require solemnization for a same-sex couple to become a registered domestic partnerships. The only act required for a registered domestic partnership is for the prospective partners to enter into a binding contract. The partners must then register their partner with the State of Oregon at the clerk of court’s office in the county where one or both partners live. Under Oregon domestic relations laws, one or both parents may change their last name on the Declaration of Domestic Partnership form that they will submit to register the domestic partnership.
Oregon partners that are in registered domestic partnerships may also take family leave to tend to the health need of their partner. Under the Oregon Family Leave Act, a partner may take up to a total of twelve weeks each year to care for her partner who has a serious health condition. A partner can also take up to two weeks of leave from work if their partner dies for bereavement leave.