illinois civil unions | Chicago Illinois Family Law Blog
The Williams Institute, located at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, is a “national think tank” which advances sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy through independent research. It’s most recent research study, released this month, has identified patterns of relationship recognition by same-sex couples throughout the U.S. and came to some interesting conclusions.
According to the research study, 19 states and the District of Columbia have implemented new laws that extend legal relationship recognition to same-sex couples since 1997, either by marriage, state-registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or limited-rights statuses. Illinois very recently joined this list of states after implementing its civil union law in June. Each type of legally recognized relationship carries different rights and responsibilities. The analysis of same-sex couples who have taken advantage of such laws revealed the following:
The Chicago Tribune reports that the number of gay and lesbian households in the state has significantly increased during the past 10 years, a reflection of social changes making it easier for couples to be in a same-sex relationship openly.
According to data from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, the number of same-sex households in Illinois has increased by over 40 percent from 2000 to 2010. Interestingly, the numbers of these types of households were high in Chicago, as well as in the suburbs. For example, in Aurora, there was an 80 percent increase, with 463 same-sex households in 2010. In Chicago, there was a 25 percent increase, from 9,412 in 2000 to 11,715 in 2010.
Recently, Equality Illinois, an advocacy group for the LGBT community, announced that a total of 1,618 civil union licenses were issued across Illinois during the first month of the new civil union law, reports The Huffington Post. Civil unions became law on June 1. Of the state’s 102 counties, couples applied for civil unions in 83 of them, or about 80 percent.
According to Equality Illinois, each of the state’s county clerks was contacted to determine the total number of licenses issued. Each clerk was also asked for feedback regarding the implementation of the law, and the group reports many clerks shared stories of excitement, particularly on the first day the licenses were offered. The organization also noted that the civil unions, domestic partnerships, or marriages obtained by gay couples in another state or jurisdiction before civil unions became law are now valid civil unions in Illinois, making the total number of couples in a civil union far greater than 1,618.
We continue our blog series discussing the new benefits given to civil union couples in Illinois now that the civil union law is in effect, focusing on health insurance coverage in relation to continuation rights, Medicare eligibility, and more.
Are Civil Union Spouses Given Continuation Rights?
In the event of a death, divorce, retirement, or job loss, Illinois law permits individuals that are covered by a civil union spouse’s employer-based health insurance policy to remain covered even after hours are reduced or a the job is lost and results in the coverage’s termination, as well as when an employee retires, divorces the spouse, or dies. Under Illinois law, continuation rights equally apply to married spouses and civil union spouses.
This is a continuation of our blog series covering the impact that the new civil union law in Illinois has on the new benefits offering to civil union spouses.
Are Civil Union Spouses Given Health Insurance Coverage?
One of the most important questions the new law answers is whether or not health insurance policies have to provide coverage for civil union spouses. Yes, all HMO contracts and health insurance policies issued in Illinois are required to offer civil union couples the identical coverage given to married couples. Additionally, if a policy allows coverage for a married policyholder’s dependent children, the policy must also allow coverage for a civil union policyholder’s children. Rates for spousal or family coverage must not be different, regardless of whether the family consists of civil union or married spouses.
At the end of May, the Illinois Department of Insurance released new guidelines for insurance companies and consumers to follow in response to the “Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act,” which became law on June 1. Under the Act, people who choose to enter into a civil union in Illinois will be given many of the same legal rights given to married couples. During the course of the next few months, our blog will explain in greater detail the effect the new law has upon health insurance, Medicare, life insurance, property insurance, pensions, and more.
All insurance policies in Illinois that were issued on or after June 1, 2011 by an insurance company registered with the State of Illinois are to conform to the new law. Civil union spouses are also entitled to the same benefits as married spouses under Illinois workers’ compensation insurance.
On May 26, the Illinois Department of Insurance released information for insurance companies and consumers regarding the “Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act,” which took effect on June 1. The Act permits unmarried adults in Illinois to enter into a civil union, and grants them much of the same legal rights that the law gives to married couples in the state.
On its website, http://www.insurance.illinois.gov, the Department published new information that explains the law’s impact on insurance coverage and benefits. A fact sheet for consumers contains frequently asked questions that cover such aspects of the new law as how to enroll a civil union spouse under an employer’s health plan. The Department also offers guidelines for Illinois insurance companies to help ensure that they comply with the new law and give policyholders information they need to know about the new law. Illinois residents with questions can visit the Department’s website or call one of the Department’s insurance experts at 866-445-5326.
According to CNN, the Colorado Senate recently approved a civil unions bill that would provide same-sex couples with many of the same rights already afforded to heterosexual couples. Senate Bill 172, which was approved by a 23-12 vote, would grant the right to share medical decisions, apply for family leave, and inherit property, among other rights, to same-sex couples in a civil union. The legislation now goes to the Colorado House.
Currently under Colorado law, only a man and a woman can be married. This bill would authorize two unmarried adults to enter into a civil union, regardless of their gender. Previously, in 2006, voters in Colorado rejected a domestic partnership measure.
SB1716 (The Civil Unions Bill) will take effect in Illinois on June 1, 2011. However, besides making civil unions legal in the state, you may not know much beyond that. Thankfully, the Cook County Clerk has provided an overview of some of the highlights of the recently passed legislation.
Civil union licenses will be issued by all county clerks in the state, and will be available to both heterosexual and same-sex couples who are both at least 18-years-old. It is important to note that the clerk’s office will not perform civil union ceremonies. After a couple obtains a civil union license, they will be required to wait until the next day to have the union “solemnized” by an officiant, such as a religious official or judge. A couple will then have up to 60 days to return their civil union license to their issuing clerk as proof of their union. To end a civil union, it must be dissolved in court like divorce, rather than simply notifying a local county clerk.
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