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Civil unions recognized in Illinois come June

One Illinois county has used pink paper for brides and blue paper for grooms who apply for marriage licenses. That may all have to change, according to a county employee, now that Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation recognizing civil unions in the state. County clerks have a few months to work out the details; the law doesn't go into effect until June 1 of this year.

A civil union will be available to both gay and straight couples. The partners must be unrelated, 18-years-old or older and not currently married or in a civil union.

Couples joined by civil unions will have many of the same legal rights of heterosexual married couples. It will settle questions of who has the right to make medical decisions, who may visit a sick partner in the hospital and who can make decisions about a deceased loved one's remains. Religious institutions will also gain under the law: They will be allowed to define marriage as they choose.

With all these rights comes responsibility, said one county clerk. A union, either a marriage or a civil union, is a serious decision for any couple, he said. There's no just walking away -- it'll have to be dissolved, and a divorce is more complicated.

It's likely the process to get a license will be similar to getting a marriage license -- though one county clerk said she doesn't know if it'll even be called a license. Before June, forms will be developed and computer systems will be updated, all at a cost to the counties. Some officials believe the fees collected for applications will cover the expenses of adapting their systems to the law change.

We'll let you know how the paper color decision turns out.

Source: The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.), "Clerks gear up for same-sex union paperwork," 02/01/11

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