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Now That Gay Marriage is Legal in Illinois, What Becomes of Civil Unions?

By Jeffrey Knipmeyer on February 12, 2014

Now that gay marriage is legal in Illinois, what is the status of civil unions in the state?

In 2011, Illinois passed the Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act, which conferred most of the rights of marriage on parties to a civil union. Basically, the law created a status analogous to marriage, regardless of gender, to couples in Illinois. Couples, both homosexual and heterosexual, were allowed to enter into civil unions, which entitled them to all the recognitions and benefits available under Illinois law to spouses.

Then, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Now same-sex couples that had been legally married in their states were able to gain access to all of the federal benefits of marriage.

That was a game-changer. Last year, Illinois made same-sex marriage legal. The new law will officially go into effect on June 1, 2014. But, the question remains, what happens to the status of civil unions in Illinois now that same-sex marriage is legal in the state?

The short answer is: nothing changes.

Some states that allowed civil unions and later legalized gay marriage mandated that couples in civil unions convert them to marriages. While Illinois will allow couples currently in civil unions to “roll-over” their status to marriage at no cost, the state is not requiring it. If you choose to stay in a civil union you may do so.

Not only that, but Illinois will continue to offer the option of civil unions to both gay and heterosexual couples who choose not to get married.


If you have questions about the impact that the new gay marriage law may have on your civil union status, call the experienced LGBT family law attorneys at Nottage and Ward in Chicago. We can be reached at (312) 332-2915 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.

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Posted in: Civil Unions

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