The Basics of Illinois Civil Unions
By: Amil Alkass
With the passing of the "Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act" in December 2010, unmarried, unrelated adults of any sexual orientation who are at least eighteen (18) years of age are granted the freedom to enter into a civil union. Heterosexual and homosexual couples who enter into civil unions are granted many of the same legal protections and responsibilities that current married couples in Illinois are afforded, including but not limited to the following:
• The right to make health care decisions without being designated as the agent under a health care power of attorney;
• The right to acquire property, visitation, custody of any minor children in the unfortunate event of a dissolution of a civil union;
• The right to enter into an agreement with a civil union partner similar to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement;
• The right to adopt a child with a civil union partner;
• The right to enjoy “spousal coverage” under employer-based health insurance plans;
• The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit;
• The right to receive inheritance without estate planning documents;
• The right to refuse to testify in a court proceeding against a civil union partner;
• The right to have hospital visitation when visitation is limited to family.
Illinois civil unions, however, due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, partners in a civil union still cannot file joint federal tax returns, receive Social Security survivor's benefits or receive any other federal benefits granted to a spouse. Thus, civil unions are only applicable on a state level, meaning that couples in a civil union are not provided the same federal rights as married couples.
A person may enter into a civil union in Illinois if both individuals are at least 18 years old (or with the sworn consent of your parents or legal guardians if you are 16 or 17 years old) and neither of the parties can already be in a marriage, civil union, or substantially similar legal relationship. Illinois also does not allow civil unions between close relatives. An individual cannot enter into a civil union with a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin, brother, sister, child or grandchild – whether by full-blood, half-blood, or adoption. Civil unions in Illinois will not be granted to ancestors; descendants; two siblings; an uncle and a niece or nephew; an aunt and a niece or nephew; or between first cousins. Individuals are also prohibited from entering into a civil union in Illinois if one person is already a part of a marriage, civil union, or a similar legal relationship that has been established in another state. According to the Illinois General Assembly, if a marriage between two individuals of the same sex, a civil union, or similar legal relationship aside from common law marriage, was legally entered into in another state, it is recognized in Illinois as a civil union.
Before entering into a civil union, there is much to consider. While a civil union provides an individual with certain rights that otherwise would not exist, ensuring that your best interests are protected through the creation of this legal responsibility is essential. An individual needs to consider the long-term obligations that a civil union will establish. If you are thinking about ending a civil union, seeking counsel and representation from an attorney with the proper legal resources and knowledge is even more essential.
For more information about Illinois Civil Unions, or any other family law matter, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 847-705-7555.