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Old Illinois Statute Could Complicate Same-Sex Marriages For Missouri Couples

By Jeffrey Knipmeyer on June 24, 2014

Illinois LGBT Family LawWith the passage of the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Act (IRFMA), it seemed that Missouri same-sex couples seeking to become legally married in Illinois would just have to make a short trip across the Mississippi River to do so. However, it appears that an old statute in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act (IMDA) may throw a monkey wrench into the plans of Missouri same-sex couples who may be contemplating getting married in Illinois.

According to Section 217 of the IMDA, “No marriage shall be contracted in this state by a party residing and intending to continue to reside in another state or jurisdiction if such marriage would be void if contracted in such other state or jurisdiction and every marriage celebrated in this state in violation of this provision shall be null and void.”

Missouri voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004. Essentially, the provisions of Section 217 mean that the state of Illinois would have to void any same-sex marriages of Missouri couples performed in Illinois because it is not recognized in that state.

Rep. Greg Harris, who sponsored IRFMA, said that Section 217 was never meant to pertain to same-sex marriages, but was meant to discourage underage persons from getting married in Illinois. He said that the statute will have to be tweaked to avoid any confusion, but nothing on that front can be done right now because the Illinois legislature is currently in recess.

The deputy director of PROMO, a Missouri gay rights advocacy group told the St. Louis Dispatch that she was hoping this statute would have been addressed by June 1 (when Illinois’ gay marriage law officially took effect). She said as it stands, “it just gives us a lot of uncertainties. It’s a challenge trying to consistently stay up on rules that are changing hour-by-hour and day-to-day.”

The Madison County Clerk in Illinois told the Dispatch that Section 217 is a “Catch 22.”

“What we’re explaining to these couples is that, if your state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, you could have your new Illinois marriage voided,” she stated.

Some Illinois jurisdictions are requiring that couples sign an affidavit that swears they reside in a state where they are “not prohibited from entering into a same-sex marriage or other substantially similar relationship.”

The Federal government has weighed in saying that it recognizes gay marriages on the federal level, but did not go so far as to require other states to recognize it. Many feel that this issue will be resolved in the courts.

Even laws that appear straightforward can yield unanticipated complications.  If you have questions about marriage, divorce or other family law matters, it is essential that you consult with a legal representative to assure that your legal rights are protected. Nottage & Ward in Chicago is here to help. Call us at (312) 332-2915 or contact us online for a free review of your case today.

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Posted in: Marriage Rights

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