Civil Union

CIVIL UNION (IT’S A VIRTUAL MARRIAGE)

(THE NEW ILLINOIS CIVIL UNION ACT)

In December 2010 the Illinois legislature passed what is called the ILLINOIS CIVIL UNION ACT. Governor Quinn signed it into law in January, 2011. The law goes into effect on June 1, 2011.

Although it does not equal the status of marriage in all respects, the Illinois Civil Union Act grants to couples many of the same rights that the law already grants to married couples. Illinois’ law is not restrictive to same sex couples. Both heterosexual couples and same sex couples are allowed to qualify for the benefits of the law.

Different couples have different reasons for not marrying. By this new law, Illinois has granted to its citizens who have not married, numerous rights comparable to those granted to married couples. These rights include:

  • Recognition of a substantially similar legal relationship that was legally entered into in another state (except common law marriages)
  • The right to make decisions on behalf of the partner regarding medical issues
  • The right to inherit from the partner
  • The right to state sponsored health care benefits afforded to the partner
  • Numerous other rights which will be discussed at a future date as the law works its way through the Illinois courts

In order for partners to qualify certain requirements need to be met. These include:

  • Both parties must be age 18 or older
  • IF the Civil Union is entered into in another state, that state’s laws must be “similar” to our Civil Union Act
  • The parties must obtain a Civil Union License from the County Clerk of the county in which they reside. (The clerk of the county may be able to set requirements for his/her county before issuing the license.)

As with any new law, many questions remain about how it will be interpreted and applied. I have no doubt that in the coming months attorneys and judges will act to interpret, apply and challenge the new law. Stay tuned for more information about Illinois’ Virtual Marriage. Contact Elliot Heidelberger if you have legal questions about civil unions.