illinois same sex civil union - Chicago Illinois Family Law Blog
Twenty-five Illinois same-sex couples are named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the Clerk of Cook County at the end of May by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois and Lambda Legal. According to Examiner.com, the lawsuit claims that the County’s refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples is in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the state’s Constitution. This suit was filed after a judge allowed Cook County to defend the marriage law they used to justify refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The marriage law in question was established in 1996, the same year the federal government established the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Both of these define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, thus discriminating against same-sex couples. Though more and more states are taking the next step to legalize gay marriage, ultimate equality cannot be achieved until the DOMA obstacle is overcome as well. With President Obama’s public support of gay marriage, this may be on the horizon.
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.
As same-sex couples find acceptance across the nation, it is inevitable that the federal government must address equality issues that relate to their jurisdiction. The U.S. government may have this chance very soon as a group of same-sex military couples have filed a federal lawsuit, according to SeacoastOnline.com. Unfortunately, a group of high-ranking U.S. government officials, including Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi are already determined to fight the suit, which seeks to obtain military benefits for same-sex couples equal to heterosexual couples.
The lawsuit names 16 plaintiffs and was filed in a Massachusetts federal court on behalf of “current and former active duty members of the United States armed forces seeking equal benefits for equal work.” The benefits sought include retirement, family separation benefits, additional housing allowances, military ID for spouses, extended insurance coverage, and spousal death benefits. The defendants named in the lawsuit include the U.S. Attorney General, U.S. Secretary of Defense, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and even the United States of America itself. The Department of Justice has until December 31 to respond to the lawsuit.
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.
The Illinois civil union law has spurred an ongoing battle between Catholic Charities and the state over the adoptive rights of same-sex couples. Under state law, adoption services under Illinois contracts are required to allow same-sex couples to adopt, as per the rights given to them by the civil union law. Catholic Charities, however, has refused to comply with the law because it contradicts the teachings of their faith. When the state declined to renew their contracts, Catholic Charities took their fight to court and still continue to fight the decision, except for the Peoria Diocese, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Illinois declined to renew its adoption services contracts with Catholic Charities of Peoria, Springfield, Joliet, and Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois in Belville when the organizations refused to provide adoption services to civil union same-sex couples, though they said that they would refer them to other agencies. This is still considered discrimination by the state and thus the cancelled contracts were upheld in court. All but the Peoria Diocese plan to appeal.
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.”
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