At this writing, the most the press can find out about Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s plans to sign the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act is that it will happen sometime in November. The signing will likely be a major event, just as the state legislature’s approval of the bill was on Nov. 5.
This is the law that will grant same-sex couples the right to marry. As we said in our last post, the law allows “2 persons” — no longer “a man and a woman” — to enter into a valid marriage and to enjoy all of the rights, responsibilities and protections that opposite-sex married couples have enjoyed for centuries.
There are a couple of things people should remember, though, and one is right there in the title: religious freedom. Just as the state’s civil union law allows religious bodies and Indian Nations, Tribes or Native Groups to decide for themselves whether they will officiate or solemnize civil unions, so the new law does as well.
The new law, in fact, goes much farther in its protections of groups that choose not to perform or to provide space for any marriage; the law specifically bars civil suits against such a group or a representative of a group that refuses to officiate at a wedding.
What the thousands of Illinois couples who are in civil unions should remember is that their civil union does not dissolve when the new law goes into effect. The parties are still tied to one another according to the applicable laws. If they want to marry, though, they may do so — as long as the partners are the same. If a person in a civil union wishes to marry someone else, the he or she must first dissolve the civil union.
Couples in Illinois will have another option, then, under this new law. Just remember that whichever option you choose, whether your marriage is same-sex or opposite-sex, comes with legal obligations to your partner and your children.
If you have questions about those legal obligations, or if you are wondering how to dissolve a civil union, you should speak with a family law professional.
CBS Chicago, “Illinois House, Senate Pass Same-Sex Marriage Bill,” Nov. 5, 2013
Illinois 98th General Assembly, 2013-2014 Session, Senate Bill 10 as enrolled, accessed online on Nov. 7, 2013
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, “Civil Marriage v. Civil Unions: What’s the difference?” January 2013 at www.glad.org