The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor raises questions about how the federal government will view same-sex couples who reside in Illinois. As you may know, Windsor declared that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is illegal in the country. This means that the federal government now recognizes same-sex marriages. The decision is available from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University.
While the Supreme Court decision represents a step toward equality in the country, many Illinois residents want to know how the Windsor decision is likely to affect civil unions in our state. Lawmakers in Illinois continue to debate marriage equality laws, but have yet to pass the legislation.
Have you entered into an Illinois civil union? You’re likely to have questions about whether Windsor has any impact on your rights and responsibilities.
Does Windsor Impact Illinois Residents?
In response to some confusion about whether the Windsor decision would impact same-sex couples in our state, an Equality Illinois Q&A answered a number of questions about civil unions and same-sex marriage. Equality Illinois is a nonprofit that works to secure and protect LGBT rights throughout the state. Some relevant questions and answers include:
1. Q: Does the Windsor decision mean that same-sex marriages are legal in Illinois?
A: No. Civil unions are legal in Illinois, but same-sex marriages remain illegal in Illinois. In other words, Windsor has no impact on the legality of same-sex marriage in Illinois.
2. Q: Will the federal government recognize my Illinois civil union as a marriage for the purpose of obtaining federal benefits?
A: No. The Windsor decision doesn’t impact how the federal government treats civil unions. Under Windsor, the federal government only is required to recognize legal same-sex marriages that have occurred in states where same-sex marriage is legal.
3. Q: If my partner and I were married in a state in which same-sex marriage is legal, and we have since moved to Illinois, will the federal government recognize our marriage?
A: In theory, yes. While many federal agencies haven’t yet made clear how they’ll treat married couples who reside in states where same-sex marriages aren’t recognized, Windsor should entitle those married couples to federal benefits. In other words, as long as you have been legally married in a state that permits same-sex marriage, the federal government should recognize your union as a legal marriage.
4. Q: If my partner and I were married in a state in which same-sex marriage is legal, and we have since moved to Illinois, will the state of Illinois recognize our union as a legal marriage?
A: No. Currently, the state of Illinois will only recognize your marriage as a civil union.
Dissolving Civil Unions
While many couples want to know how the Windsor decision will affect their Illinois civil union, some couples who have entered into civil unions in Illinois have pressing concerns about dissolving their legal relationship. As explained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, an Illinois court will have jurisdiction over the dissolution of these relationships, regardless of where you and your partner currently reside.
In addition, a civil union dissolution is generally treated like a marriage dissolution when it comes to issues of property division and custody. In other words, the proceedings in a civil union dissolution will look a lot like those in a divorce.
If you have questions about your rights in a civil union or how to dissolve your civil union in Illinois, it’s important to contact an Illinois family law attorney. At Sullivan, Taylor & Gumina P.C., we know how confusing divorce issues can be. Contact us today to discuss your case.