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Will Illinois see a marriage equality bill in the New Year?

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has been quite vocal about his support for a marriage equality measure. But will Governor Quinn’s backing be enough to convince outgoing Illinois legislators to support a same-sex marriage bill? The governor seems optimistic that a marriage equality bill could be on his desk by January; according to the Associated Press, at a December 10 press conference, Governor Quinn urged lawmakers in the state House to “vote their conscience” on the issue, and commented that he hopes a marriage equality bill will move forward before January 9.

January, 2013 presents unique opportunity for marriage equality law

January 9 is a key date for the Illinois marriage equality movement because that is the day newly elected lawmakers will be sworn in. With the so-called “lame duck” session beginning January 2, Illinois legislators will have just a few days to push through a same-sex marriage issue before the power dynamic shifts in Springfield.

A recent poll from Public Policy Polling found that 47 percent of Illinois voters now support same-sex marriage. Still, even considering the growing support for marriage equality, same-sex marriage remains a contentious issue among many groups of voters. Traditionally, lawmakers who are not returning to office are more likely to vote in favor of controversial issues, meaning that the odds are better for a marriage equality bill if it is considered before January 9.

Marriage equality would mean more family law rights for same-sex couples

It’s been about a year and a half since Illinois legalized civil unions for both same-sex and heterosexual couples. Couples entering a civil union in Illinois enjoy many of the same rights given to married couples, such as tax advantages, automatic hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions for partners, adoption and parental rights, pension benefits and inheritance rights. However, the civil union law fell short of granting federally recognized marriage.

If full-fledged same-sex marriages do become available in Illinois, it could have important implicates for those involved in a long-term same-sex relationship. Those who got married would have expended benefits, and the full legal recognition of marriage from the State of Illinois enjoyed by heterosexual partners.

With full marriage rights, there also comes a range of legal issues, however. When entering or ending a same-sex marital union, same-sex couples may need help asserting their rights.

Only time will tell if Illinois will become the latest state to implement marriage equality in the New Year. If a marriage equality bill does pass, it will usher in a new era of opportunity for same-sex couples in Illinois – and if it doesn’t pass in January, the issue is unlikely to disappear from the public discourse for long.