Gay Marriage Legal in Illinois

Betty Wang, JD

Governor Pat Quinn has signed a historic measure, making Illinois the 16th state to allow gay marriage, the Chicago Tribune reports.

This new law now redefines marriage in Illinois from an act between a man and a woman to a union between two people. This bill won’t take effect until June 1, 2014, when the first marriage ceremonies can take place. Civil unions could also be converted to marriages within a year of the law taking effect.

Here’s a general overview of gay marriage in Illinois and the country:

Illinois Makes a Third

With Illinois being the 16th state to support same-sex marriage, this means that a full third of the country, including the District of Columbia, are in support of gay marriage.

2013 has been a good year for the recognition of gay marriage — eight other states, California, Maine, Maryland, Washington, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Hawaii most recently also recognized same-sex marriage through either legislation or .

Illinois passed this marriage law more than two years after the state began allowing same-sex civil unions in June 2011.

Civil Union vs. Marriage

While civil unions and marriage may have similarities, they’re not one in the same. Civil unions may only confer state benefits — this means that a civil union in Illinois may not be recognized under federal law. For tax purposes, therefore, a same-sex couple in a civil union would have to file separate tax returns and wouldn’t be recognized for federal benefits available to married couples, such as social security survivors’ benefits, veterans’ spousal benefits, and other federal spousal benefits given to married couples.

What’s in store for all the civil unions in Illinois, then? Since 2011, around 6,500 applications have been filed, the Tribune reports, with around 4,000 of those originating in Cook County. Unlike other states which have automatically converted civil unions to marriages, Illinois law will now allow those already in same-sex civil unions to convert to marriages rather than requiring it. Thus, it is only an option, though likely a popular one for many, come June.

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Gay Marriage Legal in Illinois