A domestic partnership generally refers to a committed relationship between two individuals who are either a same-sex or opposite-sex couple. Following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2015, all states must license same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages entered into legally out of state. Several states recognize civil unions; some provide legal recognition to domestic partnerships. State laws may limit domestic partnership status to same-sex couples or to opposite-sex couples where one partner is at least 62 years of age or eligible for Social Security.
Following legalization of same-sex marriage, some employers may opt to discontinue domestic partnership benefits because same-sex partners have the legal option to marry. Given the number of possible definitions, employers should determine their objectives and establish corresponding criteria when creating policies that will affect employees with domestic partners, taking care to clearly identify which relationships will meet their definition of domestic partnership.