The State of Civil Unions in Illinois

Brett Snider, Esq.

Illinois’ House of Representatives failed to vote last week on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would have granted Illinois same-sex couples the right to marry, reports the Chicago Tribune.

While some Illinois lawmakers are vowing to raise the issue again later this year, same-sex and opposite-sex couples can still gain legal rights by entering into Illinois civil unions.

Same Sex Civil Unions Since 2011

Illinois has legally joined same-sex couples in civil unions since the summer of 2011, with Cook County making up more than half of the early same-sex civil unions in the state.

The Civil Union Act granted same-sex couples the same state benefits conferred upon opposite-sex married couples.

The Act also provided that same-sex couples legally married in other states would automatically be considered as having a civil union under Illinois law.

Still No Federal Benefits

State law provides state benefits for same-sex couples in Illinois. But while DOMA is still in effect, federal benefits for married couples will not be provided for Illinois civil unions.

This means that federal employees in Chicago who are in a legal civil union may not be able to share their employee health insurance with their partner.

The U.S. Supreme Court may provide an answer about the constitutionality of DOMA and denying same-sex couples federal benefits this summer.

Increasing Support for Equality

Although same-sex equality has its detractors in Illinois, a notable proponent since the 2011 civil unions is President Obama, who now supports marriage equality in his home state.

Many opposite-sex couples have also made vows of solidarity to either refuse to marry until it is legal for same sex couples or to choose the egalitarian civil union option instead.

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The State of Civil Unions in Illinois