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blog home Civil Unions | Chicago Illinois Family Law Blog - Part 2

Civil Unions | Chicago Illinois Family Law Blog - Part 2

Legalization of Gay Marriage on the Horizon in Illinois?

By Nottage and Ward on July 16, 2012

Earlier this month, a judge ruled that two counties in Illinois could defend a 16-year-old state law that bans same-sex marriage, which gay marriage supporters hope will lead to the overturning of the law and, ultimately, the legalization of same-sex marriage, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Back in 1996, Illinois passed a law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Other states, as well as the federal government, have passed similar laws, much to criticism from the LGBT community, especially more recently as states have been moving away from such discriminatory laws. Recently, in Illinois, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against a Cook County Clerk after his office used the 1996 law to justify refusing to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages and refusing to marry gay couples.

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Equality Illinois Says State Civil Union Law a Failure

By Nottage and Ward on July 9, 2012

As experienced civil union attorneys in Illinois, the legal team at Nottage and Ward are well aware that there have been bumps in the road since the Illinois civil union law took effect in June 2011, but, according to WJBC.com, advocacy group Equality Illinois is going as far as to say that the Civil Union Act is a failure.

Since the civil union law took effect in June 2011, there have been a total of more than 5,000 civil unions granted in Illinois. The head of the gay rights advocacy group Equality Illinois followed the experiences of these civil union couples for one year. The results of this study revealed that “every area of law failed to provide full equality” as civil union couples were denied their rights, treated unequally, or even discriminated against.

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President Obama Publicly Supports Gay Marriage

By Nottage and Ward on May 16, 2012

Marriage and divorce are hot topics, but why? The tradition of marriage has been around for centuries, but it was not until within the last decade that it has truly evolved in the United States. The rights of same-sex couples have been a topic of debate in various states across the nation, though the overall trend has been a positive one. Same-sex couples in many states, including Illinois, have been awarded the legal right to marry or enter into a civil union or domestic partnership. Equal rights have long been an issue for the gay community, but it seems that governments are finally listening and taking action. And now, President Barack Obama has publicly endorsed gay marriage, according to The New York Times.

Though the timing of President Obama’s announcement may have been rushed, making his decision to support the legalization of gay marriage was not. According to his advisors, the President had intended to define his position on the issue before September, when Democrats would nominate him for re-election. His position on gay marriage is not necessarily a surprise as he has demonstrated support for the gay community before, such as ending the ban on openly gay men and women in the military and disavowing the federal law which defines marriage as only between a man and woman, but the announcement is, nonetheless, politically, socially, and historically significant.

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Complaint Leads to Change in Lake County Civil Union Policy

By Nottage and Ward on April 18, 2012

Many out-of-state couples come to Illinois to enter into a civil union. However, each county clerk has control over their own county’s policies regarding out-of-state civil union applicants. Recently, a complaint from an Indiana couple who were denied a civil union license in Lake County has encouraged the clerk’s office to make a policy change, according to The Daily Herald.

The Indiana residents had traveled to Lake County, where one of the women’s fathers lived, to enter into and hold a ceremony for their civil union, but because Indiana does not legally recognize civil unions, their application was denied. According to the Illinois civil union law, which took effect in June 2011, out-of-state lesbian, gay, or straight couples are allowed to obtain civil union licenses and hold ceremonies in Illinois only if the county clerk is satisfied that the applicants’ home state does not prohibit civil unions. Some county clerk’s offices require that applicants sign affidavits affirming that such a union is not prohibited in their home state, while others have other procedures.

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Anti-Gay Adoption Bill Shot Down by Civil Rights and LGBT Activists in Springfield

By Nottage and Ward on March 30, 2012

The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act grants the rights of traditionally married couples to civil union couples, including the right to adopt. This caused quite a bit of controversy when Catholic Charities refused to offer civil union adoption services to same-sex couples. Although Catholic Charities, which was publicly funded though a private religious organization, has since withdrawn from the legal battle to continue receiving state funds while reserving the right to refuse adoption services, it is not the end of the battle between religion, same-sex civil unions, and state law.

According to ChicagoPhoenix.com, a bill that would have amended the Civil Union Act to allow religion-based child welfare organizations to refuse adoption services to civil union couples was killed in Springfield by civil rights activist groups such as the Illinois ACLU and LGBT groups such as The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA). The bill, which was introduced in October, would have ultimately allowed religious adoption institutions to discriminate against lesbian and gay civil union couples. This bill is only one of several similar bills introduced since last year.

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Federal Same-Sex Marriage Ban Complicates Finances, Puts Spotlight on Inequalities

By Nottage and Ward on March 20, 2012

Many of the legal and financial ramifications of traditional marriage are automatic upon marriage. Even without a will, if one spouse dies, the other spouse is granted certain rights in the estate. Once married, each spouse has ownership rights to marital property. The parties also get all applicable health and employment benefits, can file joint state and joint federal tax returns, and are afforded many other financial and legal rights without taking any overt actions. Gay couples are not so lucky, unfortunately, and the financial issues that same-sex partners must face are a constant reminder that marriage equality is still far away, though it gets closer every year.

Many of the obstacles in the way of marriage equality for same-sex couples have been demolished by states through civil union and domestic partnership laws and even legalization of gay marriage. These are important steps toward the final goal of bringing change to the federal government and its Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) With the ongoing financial hassles and denial of rights plaguing gay couples, the movement for change on the federal level is growing stronger.

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Illinois May Soon Offer Family Leave for Civil Union Spouses

By Nottage and Ward on March 12, 2012

One of the most difficult obstacles for civil union spouses to overcome in being awarded certain rights in Illinois is the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The federal government affords certain rights and benefits under that definition to married couples, which are not afforded to same-sex civil union couples. According to WJBC, Illinois lawmakers are trying to work around this obstacle on the state level.

The Illinois civil union law states that civil union spouses are entitled to the same rights and benefits as those that are married, and so if the civil union law is to remain, certain measures should be taken. Illinois legislators are currently considering expanding certain medical benefits given to married couples to include same-sex civil union couples, more specifically, the benefit of medical leave. The proposed Family Medical Leave Act (HB 4724) would give employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to tend to a child or sick partner. Though the proposed medical leave would only cover businesses with at least 50 employees, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction to combat the restrictions civil union couples face due to federal laws.

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Springfield Civil Union Benefits Reversal Vote Thrown Out by Judge

By Nottage and Ward on February 22, 2012

In January, the decision to deny spousal benefits to Springfield city employees in civil unions was reversed by a unanimous vote of the Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee. After the vote was initially denied in December, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston publicly declared his support of awarding spousal benefits to city employees in civil unions. Soon after that public announcement, the committee reversed its decision and granted benefits. Unfortunately, that reversal vote has since been thrown out by a Circuit Court Judge for violating the Open Meetings Act, according to The Windy City Times.

An Illinois Times reporter had filed suit after the Committee held a closed-door vote on extending spousal insurance benefits to civil union spouses in January. The Committee did unanimously vote to extend the benefits, but, because the Committee was a public committee, they were required to hold open meetings. Because the vote was conducted behind closed doors, a Judge ruled in favor of the reporter’s suit, which made the vote void.

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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Legalize Gay Marriage in Illinois

By Nottage and Ward on February 16, 2012

It has been almost one year since the civil union law went into effect in Illinois and now some lawmakers feel it is time to take the next step and authorize same-sex marriages, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Last week, three legislators filed a bill, HB5170, entitled the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” which would remove the explicit prohibition of same-sex marriages from state law and make marriage legally available to gay couples. In addition, the new measure would allow religious groups to make their own decisions concerning the types of marriages they perform. One of the bill’s sponsors is not sure whether the Legislature will give it serious consideration, but, if trends across the country are any indication, Illinois may consider same-sex marriages sooner rather than later.

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Springfield Committee Reverses December Decision, Grants Benefits to Civil Union Spouses

By Nottage and Ward on January 16, 2012

In December, Springfield denied city employees civil union spousal benefits to the objections of LGBT rights groups. Soon after the decision, Springfield Mayor Mike Houston publicly announced his support of giving spousal benefits to the civil union partners of city employees and urged the Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee to reverse its decision in the next session.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the committee has indeed reversed that decision, by a unanimous vote, and city employees who are in civil unions will be eligible for spousal health benefits in March of this year.

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