illinois civil union attorneys | Chicago Illinois Family Law Blog
The Illinois civil union law was implemented in June 2011 and, since then, there have been a lot of changes and controversies. One of these controversies is the right for civil union spouses to claim spousal benefits. According to the Windy City Times, the Springfield Mayor is backing spousal benefits for city employees who are in a civil union, despite the fact that the Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee voted against awarding those benefits in December.
The Springfield committee, which includes retirees and city staffers, voted to maintain the already established eligibility standards for insurance; the current standards do not include civil union spouses. The vote, or the result of the vote rather, is claimed by the committee members as being legal because Springfield is self-insured and not subject to the same regulations as commercially-insured employers. Supposedly, a bill for extending the spousal insurance benefits of married couples would increase the cost of insurance by $725,000. Although the Mayor said that the vote was indeed legal, he has altered his position and is now urging the committee to reassess theirs when the next quarter comes around.
The first six months after the passing of the civil union law in Illinois resulted in the issuance of 1,856 civil union licenses in Cook County. Just over 3,700 civil union licenses were issued across the state for couples throughout 90 of the state’s 102 counties According to the Chicago Sun-Times, 138 of Cook County licenses were issued to heterosexual couples, which presents an important question: Why would heterosexual couples choose to enter into a civil union instead of a marriage?
A recent report from the Cook County Clerk reveals the answer, according to The Huffington Post. The report, which was released on December 20, found solidarity with same-sex couples as the number one reason why opposite-sex couples opted for a civil union instead of a traditional marriage. A survey conducted by the clerk’s office revealed that 87 heterosexual couples registered for civil unions in Cook County during the survey period of June 1 through September 19. Twenty-six percent of those who took the survey stated that their decision was based on “political or ideological reasons such as equality and inclusiveness.” Additional reasons included obtaining benefits and personal or religious convictions.
After becoming the seventh U.S. state to pass laws that give same-sex couples many of the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples, Illinois has now confirmed that same-sex couples can file joint state income tax returns, according to The Chicago Sun-Times. The original civil union bill afforded same-sex couples the same rights as married couples; however, the Illinois Department of Revenue subsequently advised that it would not allow the filing of joint tax returns by couples who had entered into civil unions. The Department of Revenue has now reversed its position.
Starting in January, same-sex couples who have a valid Illinois civil union license will have the opportunity to file a joint state tax return. Although it is not expected to save same-sex couples much financially, the decision is considered an important and symbolic step in equality. Illinois is the tenth state to give legally recognized same-sex couples the right to file joint state tax returns.
The passing of the civil union law in Illinois was enthusiastically supported by the State’s gay community. Since its effective date on June 1st, the law has created many benefits and many challenges, both for same-sex couples and the Illinois government, but the State continues to try and make the law work for everyone. One benefit of the civil union law, that many same-sex couples have been happy to take advantage of, is the ability to take a civil union spouse’s name, according to The Chicago Tribune.
For many same-sex couples in Illinois, entering into a civil union has brought them closer, but being able to easily take their chosen partner’s name and show the community that they are a couple and proud of it has been a much-desired benefit. Although there is no database that keeps track of name changes related to civil unions, approximately 3,000 additional driver’s license name changes were requested between June 1, 2011 and October 31, 2011.
Soon after Illinois’ Civil Unions bill was signed into law, a same-sex couple decided to enter into a civil union. When trying to find a location for the ceremony, however, they were met with a frustrating reality, according to the Chicago Tribune. The male couple wanted to hold the ceremony at a quaint bed and breakfast in central Illinois, an area convenient for family in Indiana and Kentucky, as well as their home in Mattoon. They contacted two bed and breakfasts, the Beall Mansion in Alton and Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton, both of which told the couple that they would not host same-sex civil unions.
The Beall Mansion replied to the couple’s inquiry via email, saying that it “will just be doing traditional weddings.” The owner of Timber Creek also replied via email, saying “We will never host same-sex civil unions. We will never host same-sex weddings even if they become legal in Illinois. We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate.”
NPR reports that controversy has erupted in Illinois regarding whether faith-based groups should be required to alter their practices and assist gay couples seeking to adopt. The new civil union law in Illinois has put the state and many faith-based organizations at odds with one another.
In particular, Catholic Charities agencies, located in five dioceses in Illinois, had received state funding to offer adoption and foster care services, and would only place children with straight single individuals living alone or straight married couples. Once the new law went into effect, one agency stopped its adoption services, concerned it would be required to allow same-sex couples to adopt or have discrimination lawsuits filed against them. Three other agencies put prospective parent licensing on hold and sued the state. Previously, the agencies had referred couples who were unmarried to other agencies, without regard to their sexual orientation.
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