Couple marries six months before Illinois same-sex marriage law passes

June 1, 2013, marks an important day in Illinois' history. It is the date same-sex marriages officially become legal in Illinois. Many same-sex couples are disappointed in the delayed effective date of the law, although one exception already has been made.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a long-time Chicago couple received an expedited marriage license and were married by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Logue on November 20, 2013. The women, both in their 60's, were partners for more than five years, and entered into a civil union in 20011 after the law changed. One of the women had been battling breast cancer for 17 years, and had been advised by her doctors that she had to live. They sued in District Court, requesting that Cook County Vital Records issue them a marriage license. Cook County Clerk David Orr chose not to defend his office in the suit. U.S. District judge Thomas M. Durkin ordered Clerk Orr to issue a marriage license immediately due to special circumstances. Lambda Legal provided legal assistance to the couple. The couple wed privately.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that as a result of a similar lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ordered Cook County Clerk David Orr's office to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to qualifying couples, stating that "This Court can conceive of no reason why the public interest would be deserved by allowing a few couples facing terminal illness to wed a few months earlier than the timeline would currently allow." The Cook County Clerk's Office, same-sex couples will be able to marry immediately upon presentation of appropriated medical documentation from a doctor that one partner is suffering from a life-threatening illness.

Illinois is now one of 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have passed legislation approving same-sex marriage. The Illinois law, called the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn on a desk once used by President Abraham Lincoln.

The website of the Illinois General Assembly provides a synopsis of the law, outlining the following pertinent provisions:

  • Illinois laws, of any kind, pertaining to marriage, now apply equally to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and children of those couples.
  • Legal protections, benefits and responsibilities applicable to spouses and children of a marriage, now apply equally to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
  • Under certain circumstances, the law provides for voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage.

Equality Illinois, an organization promoting marriage equality in Illinois explains that some of the important rights same-sex couples seek that are available to opposite-sex couples include the ability to inherit a spousal share, to have the right to be present as a spouse at a hospital, decision-making rights for healthcare and financial issues in the event of incapacity, spousal immunity from testifying against in a court of law, Federal and state tax benefits, exemptions from certain transfer and estate taxes, the ability to file a wrongful death action on behalf of a deceased partner, the ability to own property in joint tenancy, and full rights under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, such as division of property, allocation of debt, the right to seek custody and visitation of children born or adopted during the marriage, the and the ability to seek judicial assistance in the division of property and allocation of debts, child custody, visitation issues, maintenance, child support, and other such issues.

Interestingly, Huffington Post reported that Governor Quinn, who approved of the same-sex marriage law, stated, "If lawmakers sent him that bill," requesting an immediate effective date of the law, "he'd sign it." Currently, a Republican lawmaker has filed a bill, seeking the repeal of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. The debate clearly rages on. Hopefully, it will be resolved in the near future.

If you or someone you know is seeking legal advice relating to marriage or family-law issues in the state of Illinois, Susan E. Kamman & Associates is available to assist you with achieving the best possible outcome.