Illinois action blog

Monday, June 6, 2011

Get the FAQs on Civil Unions in Illinois

Last week, same sex couples were afforded the ability to enter into civil unions for the first time in Illinois.  A civil union will grant same sex couples with some of the same legal protections as married couples.  The historic day was celebrated by many around the state, including Planned Parenthood of Illinois.  We are thrilled to be one step closer to achieving equality for all in Illinois! 

Here are some frequently asked questions and the answers from the ACLU:

What is a civil union?
In Illinois, a civil union is a legal relationship between two people -- either of the same or different sex -- providing all of the legal obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits that the law of Illinois grants to married couples. But a civil union is not a marriage; a civil union does not provide federal protections or responsibilities to couples who enter into one, and a civil union will be recognized only in certain other states, not by all states.

Who can get a civil union?
Two people can enter a civil union if they are:

• at least 18 years old;
• not in a civil union, marriage, or another substantially similar legal relationship;
• not closely related to each other (for example, not a sibling, descendant, aunt, uncle, or cousin).

What rights and responsibilities will couples have if they get a civil union?
Couples who enter into a civil union in Illinois have every obligation and protection provided by Illinois law to married couples. These obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits may be found in Illinois statutes, administrative rules, policies, court decisions (common law), or any other source of state law. They include:

*The ability to own property jointly, including the presumption that the property obtained by either partner after joining in a civil union is owned jointly;

*Certain protections against losing your joint property to creditors;

*The right to make decisions about one another’s medical care if either of you is unconscious or otherwise unable to make those decisions;

*Rights to keep private your conversations and to avoid testifying against one another;

*The right to court-supervised distribution of property if you and your partner break up;

*The right to share the same nursing home room;

*Pension protections for surviving partners of teachers, police officers, and firefighters, and those other state, county, and municipal employees whose pension benefits pass to their spouses at death;
*Workers’ compensation benefits for partners of employees who are accidentally injured or killed at work;

*The ability to recover for your partner’s wrongful death;

*Intestacy rights to ensure that your surviving partner will receive some or all of your property if you die without a will.

How can my partner and I enter a civil union?
First, you must fill out an application and present it to the county clerk, with any applicable fees. Once the county clerk ensures that you are qualified for a civil union, he or she will issue a license and a certificate for a civil union. The license becomes effective the next day and expires after 60 days. Once you receive the license and certificate, the civil union must be certified. A civil union may be certified by a judge, a retired judge, a county clerk in counties with more than 2,000,000 inhabitants, by public officials who may solemnize marriages, or by an officiant in accordance with any religious denomination, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group. Religious organizations are not required to officiate at a civil union, but they may do so if they wish. The person who officiates over your civil union must complete the certificate and return it to the county clerk within 10 days.

For more information on civil unions, click here.

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