Relationship Recognition: Overview

NCLR has worked to achieve full, fair, and equal legal recognition of the LGBT community’s relationships since its start in 1977, defending protections for our families by working for full marriage equality and by demanding dignity for unmarried couples and domestic partners.

In the wake of our Supreme Court victory that established nationwide marriage equality, we are in the midst of a dramatic transformation of the laws affecting our families.  While we are proud of our tremendous success, our work is far from over. Marriage equality does not automatically solve all relationship recognition issues or protect all LGBT families. LGBT people who are not married or only married recently may be denied any rights to each other in many states, leaving surviving partners without needed government benefits and separated partners unable to divide their property. And couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships may still be denied government benefits, or may be unable to divorce when they break up. And many different family formations, including co-parenting partners, polyamorous families, and single parents, lack basic legal protections.

Over the past three decades, we have partnered with talented attorneys across the nation to advance the rights of and protections for LGBT parents and families. In 2003, NCLR convened a group of experienced family law and estate planning attorneys from around the country to discuss family formation and protection issues, evaluating national trends and cases in each state. The meeting proved invaluable to both NCLR and the private practitioners involved in addressing the ever-evolving legal challenges LGBT families face. The group continued to meet and to grow, and in 2006, was formally formed as NCLR’s National Family Law Advisory Council.

NCLR is hard at work addressing the ever-evolving legal challenges our families and relationships face, creating innovative legal protections whenever and however possible.