Less than a month has passed since Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act into law. And although the law will not go into effect until June 1st, Illinois is already making some changes as a result of the landmark event. Springfield is formulating a policy on whether gay prison inmates can be married, and one couple is poised to become the first legally married same-sex couple in Illinois history. Many changes are in the works as the state moves to full marriage equality from the older domestic partnership system.
Illinois Department of Corrections Promises a Gay Marriage Policy by June 1st
The Illinois Department of Corrections currently does not have a policy in place to accommodate same-sex marriages. However, the Southern Springfield Illinoisan reports, IDOC pledges to have one in place by the time the new law takes effect in 2014.
This has significant repercussions for those seeking to marry an inmate. Just like traditional marriages, a spouse in a same-sex relationship necessarily shares debt responsibilities. The likelihood of an inmate being permitted to marry will likely be the same with a same-sex marriage as it is currently with traditional marriages. Marriage is a privilege that inmates must apply for, and the application can be rejected for security reasons, the well-being of the inmate, or for the nebulously defined “other legitimate penological interests.”
As of right now, inmates are not permitted to marry each other. Because security concerns are the reason behind the prohibition, the new same-sex marriage law will likely not change the policy.
Same-Sex Couple Successfully Sues for a Marriage License Now
A same-sex couple has successfully sued Illinois for a marriage license that will allow them to marry this week, a full seven months before the new law goes into effect. The Chicago Tribune reports that Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert of Chicago filed suit to receive permission to marry now because Gray has terminal cancer. A Federal judge issued an order requiring the State to grant the license on November 25.
Though Gray and Ewert have had a civil union since 2011, they wanted to be married as well. Beyond the symbolism of having their union be on equal footing as those enjoyed by traditional couples, there are real economic benefits as well. The civil union allowed Gray and Ewert to enjoy all state-level benefits that marriage has to offer, such as hospital visitation and medical decision-making power, but did not allow them to enjoy any of the federal benefits of marriage. Once they are married, they will be able to file jointly for their taxes, enjoy survivor benefits in Social Security and pension plans, and the myriad of other benefits formerly enjoyed by different-sex married couples alone.
Marriage and You
Be it same-sex or different-sex, marriage is a tricky legal proposition. Should you protect your assets before marriage by getting a prenuptial agreement? If not, are you prepared to surrender half of the marital property you accumulate during the marriage in the event of divorce? An experienced family attorney can answer these questions, and can help protect your assets and ensure a more comfortable marriage. Contact a DuPage County family lawyer today.