The Trusted Adviser
July 2011 | Volume 4 • Number 5

Legislative Updates


Civil Unions

PA 96-1513(SB 1716), Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, 750 ILCS 75/1—90 (2011), Effective Date: June 1, 2011

Illinois enacted new legislation that legalizes civil unions while at the same time recognizes a religious institution&€™s freedom to choose whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil union (750 ILCS 75/15). Section 75/20 states that "A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law."

There are two purposes of the Act: (1) to provide adequate procedures for the certification and registration of a civil union; and (2) to provide persons entering into a civil union with the obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded by the law of Illinois to spouses (750 ILCS 75/5). The Act is intended to be "liberally construed and applied."

Section 75/10 defines a "civil union" as a legal relationship between two persons, of either the same or opposite sex. A "party to a civil union" includes any definition or use of the terms "spouse," "family," "immediate family," "dependent," "next of kin," and any other term that denote the spousal relationship.

Section 75/25 specifically prohibits five types of civil unions: (1) when both parties are under the age of 18; (2) when it is entered into prior to the dissolution of a marriage or civil union; (3) when it is between an ancestor and a descendent or between siblings, whether the relationship is by half or whole blood or adoption; (4) when it is between an aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew, whether the relationship is by half or whole blood or adoption; and (5) when it is between first cousins.

The application, license, and certification process is delineated at 750 ILCS 75/30. The Director of Public Health issues the form for an application. The application must include the following information: name, sex, occupation, address, social security number, date and place of birth of each party to the civil union; name and address of the parents or guardians of each party; whether the parties are related and if so, the relationship; and proof that a previous marriage, civil union, or substantially similar legal relationship has been dissolved, declared void, or ended by death of the former spouse or party to the civil union.

When the application has been completed and signed by both parties, all applicable fees have been paid, there is satisfactory proof that the civil union is not prohibited, and both parties have appeared before the county clerk, then the county clerk issues a license and certificate of civil union. The license becomes effective one day after issuance and expires 60 days after it has become effective. The certificate must be completed and returned to the county clerk within ten days of the civil union, and the completed certificate is "presumptive evidence of the civil union in all courts."

According to 750 ILCS 75/40, a civil union may be certified by a judge of a court of record, a retired judge of a court of record, a judge of the Court of Claims, a county clerk in counties with two million or more inhabitants, a public official whose powers include solemnization or marriages, or an officiant in good standing in accordance with any religious denomination or Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group.

Pursuant to 750 ILCS 75/35, those applying for a civil union in Illinois but reside in another state must prove that they are not prohibited from entering into a civil union or substantially similar legal relationship in the jurisdiction in which they reside.

Section 75/60 contains a reciprocity clause that recognizes civil unions or "a substantially similar legal relationship other than common law marriage, legally entered into in another jurisdiction."

Section 75/45 states that the dissolution or declaration of invalidity of a civil union is governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/101et seq.).

Section 75/65 contains a severability clause where if a part of the Act is adjudged invalid, it will not affect the validity of the remainder of the Act.










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[Last update: 6-28-11]