The Changing Definition of Marriage
The definition of marriage in the United States has slowly been expanding to extend the rights and benefits traditionally afforded to opposite-sex couples to their same-sex counterparts. According to The Washington Post, since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision in the Defense of Marriage Act in the case U.S. v. Windsor, there have been 17 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have changed their laws to allow same-sex marriage.
Other states have actively changed their laws to put limitations on the right marry. In fact, 33 states have limited the right to marry to opposite-sex couples only. Illinois is one of the states that now allows same-sex marriage, though. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Freedom to Marry into law on November 20, 2013. The law provides that same-sex couples can begin marrying in Illinois on June 1, 2014.
The purpose of the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act is “to provide same-sex and different-sex couples and their children equal access to the status, benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities of civil marriage.” The law may be able to finally address some of the inequalities same-sex couples have experienced because of their inability to marry.
There are many critical issues that may be resolved by the expanded definition of marriage. Health care benefits may be more easily obtained, or issues may be reduced over who has the right to power of attorney when one of the same-sex spouses has a terminal disease. Further, other financial and property rights can now be addressed so that it will be easier for same-sex couples to buy a house, raise a child, or gain access to educational or grant programs.
First to Implement
Cook County is the first county in Illinois to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies. On Friday, February 21st, 2014, a federal judge allowed Cook County to issue marriage licenses, months before the law goes into effect in the state on June 1st, 2014.
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014, was the first official day most couples could marry, because Illinois licenses require couples to wait one calendar day before they can wed. The licenses are valid for 60 days. A $60 marriage license fee can be waived for couples already in an Illinois civil union. The ruling applies only to Cook County, but couples that live in other counties can also get their license in Cook County if they perform the ceremony there.
Though the bill was signed into law on November 20th, 2013, at least two couples were previously granted the right to marry before the June 1st deadline. In one of those cases, one partner had a “life-threatening medical condition.” According to Court Clerk Michele Roberts, “on Saturday, more than 20 same-sex couples were married in the three hours the First Municipal District Marriage and Civil Union Court in downtown Chicago was open for ceremonies.”
In the next several months, additional counties will no doubt follow Cook County's lead in conducting same-sex marriages before or on the June 1st deadline to accommodate the desire of residents to garner the benefits for which they have fought aggressively.
Contact an Illinois Marriage Attorney
If you are interested in learning more about what rights you have under the new marriage laws in Illinois, do not hesitate to contact an experienced family law attorney at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. for a consultation today.