Civil Union in Illinois

By signing the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (the “Act”) into law on January 31, 2011, Governor Pat Quinn placed Illinois on par with several other states that formalize relationships between two consenting adults of the same gender and sexual orientation. New Jersey also formalizes Civil Unions, as will Hawaii in 2012. Connecticut, Iowa Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow “same-sex” Marriages, while Oregon, Nevada, and Washington grant nearly all state-level spousal rights by allowing same-sex couples to register as Domestic Partners. Hawaii, Maine, and Wisconsin provide limited state-level spousal rights to those who register with Domestic Partner registries.

The new Illinois law is set to go into effect June 1, 2011. According to the Act, the purpose of the law is to “provide adequate procedures for the certification and registration of a civil union and provide persons entering into a civil union with the obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.” A civil union is defined as a “legal relationship between two persons, or either the same or opposite sex, established pursuant to this Act.” Another important provision states that a party to a civil union “shall be included in any definition or use of the terms ‘spouse’, ‘family’, ‘immediate family’, ‘dependent’, ‘next of kin’, and other terms that denote the spousal relationship.”

The Act also requires that marriages, civil unions, or other similar legal relationships that are legally entered into in another state are recognized. Though it specifically excludes recognition of common law marriages.

Religious bodies opposed to formalizing same-sex relationships will not be forced to officiate civil unions, the Act providing “any religious body, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group is free to choose whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil union.” The Act also prohibits certain civil unions, such as those entered prior to both parties attaining the age of 18 and civil unions entered into prior to the dissolution of a marriage or civil union or substantially similar legal relationship of one of the parties.

The application, license, and certification procedure are also outlined in the Act, as well as the duties of the county clerk. And for those civil unions that don’t work out, the Act describes the mechanism for dissolution of a civil union (similar to a divorce between married individuals). If any part of the Act or its application to any person or circumstance is determined to be invalid, the application shall not affect the validity of the Act as a whole or any other part of the Act.

If you have any questions about Civil Unions in Illinois, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847) 253-8800.