As Illinois is poised to finally legalize same-sex marriage, a question comes to mind: what will happen to the civil union? The popular opinion amongst gay rights activists was that civil unions were a half-measure, a throwback to the days of “separate but equal” constitutional thought that was eliminated from de jure law in race relations in the 1960s. Illinois itself has included in its same-sex marriage act a provision whereby any couple can have their civil union converted into a marriage with no filing fee. If marriage is the better option, will the idea of the civil union fade into history?
Possibly not. On its surface, under current Illinois and Federal law, it seems that marriage would be the way to go, in that it not only guarantees the benefits of marriage on a state level but also on a federal level now that DOMA has been repealed. But there are certain areas where clever couples, whether same-sex or different sex, may be better off with a civil union.
A civil union may be beneficial to a couple in terms of federal taxation. The IRS began accepting tax returns filed jointly by same-sex couples, regardless of the state of same-sex marriage in their jurisdiction, and giving those returns the same status as returns filed by married couples. Depending on the income of the couple as a whole, filing jointly as a married couple can result in a “marriage bonus” or a “marriage penalty.” It may be far more beneficial for those in a relationship to file separately. Yet, if they were not married, they would lose out on many statewide benefits for marriage. With a civil union, the couple may be able to avoid any “marriage penalty” in their federal income tax, while still enjoying the many benefits under state law that come with marriage.
Pensioners who have been widowed may also experience a benefit from civil union. Medill Reports gives the example of a widowed woman who is receiving survivor benefits from a pension earned by her late husband. Marriage would necessarily cancel the continuing benefits. However, if she met someone new and wanted him to have state law benefits like survivorship in her property, hospital visitation, and medical decision-making power, a civil union would achieve that. The effect on Federal benefits at this point is unsettled, but the possibility to take advantage of the situation is available in Illinois.
Illinois Family Law Attorneys
Currently, the only two states that allow civil unions alongside marriages for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples are Hawaii and Illinois. If you are in Illinois and you want to commit to a single partner, you have options. A civil union might be the answer. An experienced family law attorney can advise you on the best course of action. Contact Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today for a consultation.