Washington, D.C.'s Domestic Partnership registry, administered by the Department of Health's Vital Records Division, is the biggest legal step, so far, that gay and lesbian Washingtonians can take to formalize their relationships in the eyes of the District government.
If you're a D.C. government employee but your registered domestic partner isn't, you have access to health insurance benefits for him or her. Also, family visitation rights in hospitals and nursing homes are extended to all registered domestic partners.
The application process -- which also yields a quite lovely, suitable-for-framing certificate -- costs $45. For details, call 202-442-9303 or visit www.dchealth.dc.gov.
Vermont's landmark Civil Union law extends the state's opposite-sex marriage benefits to same-sex couples, and non-residents are welcome to obtain a Civil Union license from any Vermont town clerk at a cost of $20. Couples then deliver their license to a Vermont judge, justice of the peace or member of the clergy for certification.
The effort is largely symbolic if you don't reside in Vermont, and you should be aware that Vermont imposes residency requirements -- just as it does for opposite-sex marriages -- if you ever want to dissolve your Civil Union to seek marriage-equivalent benefits in other states that may offer them in the future.
For details, visit the Vermont Secretary of State's website at www.sec.state.vt.us.