HRC Blog

Illinois Civil Unions Bill to be Signed Into Law Today

Today, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will sign into law the “Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act.”

The signing ceremony is planned for 4 p.m. central time today.  Couples may begin obtaining civil unions and enjoying the state-level rights and responsibilities of married couples on June 1, 2011. “Today marks a tremendous step towards equality for all families in Illinois,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “HRC commends Governor Quinn for his commitment to ensuring civil unions became law. Congratulations to Rep. Greg Harris, lead sponsor of the bill, who fought for years to ensure civil unions would become a reality, and thank you to Equality Illinois and the ACLU of Illinois for their tireless efforts on behalf of the LGBT community.”

The new law will permit both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under Illinois law that are granted to spouses.  Couples who enter into a civil union will not receive any rights or benefits under federal law. Illinois still does not permit same-sex couples to marry.  The law explicitly allows religious entities to choose not to solemnize or officiate civil unions. In addition to Illinois, twelve states plus Washington, D.C. have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples.  Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C. provide marriage to same-sex couples under state law.  New York and Maryland recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages, but do not provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples in state.

Five other states – California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington – provide same-sex couples with access to almost all of the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Wisconsin provide gay and lesbian couples with limited rights and benefits, not all rights provided to married couples.  An attorney general opinion and subsequent court ruling in Rhode Island resulted in limited recognition of out-of-jurisdiction marriages of same-sex couples. California recognized marriage for same-sex couples between June and November of 2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which purports to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality.  Couples married during that window remain married under California law, but all other same-sex couples can only receive a domestic partnership within the state. The state will recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages that occurred before November 5, 2008 as marriages and those that occurred on or after November 5, 2008 as similar to domestic partnerships. Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.  For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws.

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