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Save the date: June 1 is right around the corner

We've posted before about how counties are planning for the day the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act goes into effect. Now, just a few weeks shy of June 1, most county clerks have new application forms and certificates in hand or on order. At last, everything seems to be in place for same-sex couples to make it legal.

Actually, there are two dates to save: June 1, to get the license, and June 2, to tie the knot after the 24-hour waiting period. The waiting period is the same as for a marriage license.

The applications were fairly easy to design. In most cases, the words "Husband" and "Wife" were replaced with "Partner" or "Partner A" and "Partner B." The title of the certificate is now Civil Union. The changes were simple enough that there was virtually no fiscal impact.

There may be money to make, though. Counties have generally set the fees to match the marriage license fees -- usually $30 or $35. Still, communities that don't issue many marriage licenses in a year don't expect to see a big jump in revenue when the civil union certificates become available.

Counties aren't sure whether there will be a rush to be the first couple to apply. One clerk has considered a lottery to decide which couple in the crowd will be first.

Whoever the first couple is, the next step would be to arrange for the service. Anyone who can legally perform a wedding can solemnize a civil union. It should be noted, of course, that some religious officiates may choose not to perform the ceremony. The Act specifically ensures that religious traditions may decide the matter for themselves.

And, while the union grants the couple the legal obligations, protections, benefits and responsibilities available to spouses under Illinois law, religious denominations may, again, decide the matter for themselves.

A second, Illinois ceremony is not necessary for gay couples who have been married or have entered into a civil union or domestic partnership in another state. For legal recognition of the union, the couple must present proof of the out-of-state union or validly registered partnership to the state of Illinois.

There's a wonderful scene in "Casablanca." An older German couple is at Rick's, and they proudly tell the waiter that they will be on tomorrow's plane to Lisbon. The wife beams and says, "At last the day is came!"

For gay couples in Illinois, on June 1 -- or June 2 -- at last their day will came.

Source: The Telegraph, "Counties ready for civil unions," Cynthia M. Ellis, 04/30/11

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