American governments have recently begun to experiment with new familial statuses for gay male and lesbian couples, who have demanded the right to marry but have been appeased with more modest forms of recognition.4 What I propose here is quite different. It is a status for people who have close bonds but do not want to be married to each other. I call this status "designated friends." Once registered, "designated friends" would obtain a limited number of privileges and undertake a limited number of responsibilities relating to the care for the other when ill or incapacitated or upon death, but would not receive any of the governmental financial benefits or undertake any of the financial responsibilities that attach to marriage. Gay male and lesbian couples would be among those eligible to register, but the premise of this proposal is that same-sex couples would also be permitted to marry.5 Same-sex couples who do not choose to marry would be eligible, like any other pair of unmarried adults, to register as designated friends if they wished.
Chambers, David L. "For the Best of Friends and for Lovers of all Sorts, a Status Other than Marriage (Symposium: Unmarried Partners and the Legacy of Marvin v. Marvin)." Notre Dame L. Rev. 76, no. 5 (2001): 1347-64.