chicago civil union lawyer - Chicago Illinois Family Law Blog
The Illinois State Senate is continuing the drive toward marriage equality in Illinois. As reported by Reuters and published in The Chicago Tribune, the Illinois Senate approved a bill on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013, to make same-sex marriages legal. The vote in the upper chamber was as follows:
- 34 in favor
- 21 against
- 2 abstentions
The bill now goes to the House. Although the fight there is expected to be more intense, if the bill makes it to the desk of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, he has pledged to sign it. President Barack Obama has already made his opinion on same-sex marriage in his home state known. He is in support of the efforts of advocates for same-sex marriage and does not believe the 2011 approval by the state’s legislators of civil unions for same-sex couples goes far enough.
It’s been made clear that the Illinois Civil Union Act has left much to be desired when it comes to true equality for same-sex couples under the law. It did not take long for the state’s ban on gay marriage to be challenged and now, a bill to legalize gay marriage may be considered as early as this month, according to an article in On Top Magazine, a gay advocacy website.
One of the bill’s sponsors, State Representative Greg Harris, told the Windy City Times that the bill, which was first introduced in February 2012, may actually come up for vote during the General Assembly’s upcoming veto, or lame duck session. He encourages supporters to contact their representatives to voice their support of the bill.
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.
The Courier-News reports that the Public Service Committee in Kane County, one of the larger counties in Illinois, has approved a fee for civil union licenses to be implemented when civil unions become law on June 1. The fee is the same as the current fee to obtain a marriage license in the county, and was proposed by Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham.
The Committee approved the recommendation regarding the fee on Thursday, April 21. Now, the resolution goes before the county board, and if it is passed, the fee for a civil union license will be $27. A civil union certificate will cost $11. In order for the union to occur, a license is needed. However, the certificate is the evidence that the marriage occurred and needs to be filed with the county clerk’s office. Any additional copies of the civil union certificate will cost $4 apiece. Cunningham stated he believed it made the most sense to have the fee for a civil union license mirror the current fee for a marriage license.
According to The Chicago Tribune, state officials are now looking into whether religious agencies that are given public funding to give foster care parents licenses are violating anti-discrimination laws if they don’t allow parents that are openly gay to apply for a license. In Illinois, any adult who adopts or becomes a foster care provider for a child must attain a foster care license.
The Lutheran Child and Family Services, the Evangelical Child and Family Agency, and the Catholic Charities are under fire. If they are found to be in violation, they will be required to give openly gay foster parents licenses or face losing millions of dollars from the State. This would also disrupt over 3,000 foster children under their supervision. The policies of the Lutheran Child and Family Services prohibit the “developing or licensing foster care families who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning,” as do the other agencies.
Senate Bill 2436, known as the “Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act” has been approved and the new Illinois civil union law will go into effect in July 2011. The Huffington Post reports that the measure passed by a 32-24-1 Senate vote and by a 61-52 Illinois House majority vote.
The new law will permit heterosexual and homosexual couples in a committed relationship to enter into civil unions. The “Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act” will also allow religious institutions to define marriage as they wish. Two adults may enter into an Illinois civil union if they are in a committed relationship and are at least 18 years of age, are not in an existing marriage or civil union, and are not related. Those who enter into an Illinois civil union will be given many of the same legal obligations, protections, responsibilities, and benefits that are provided to married couples.
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