Same Sex Marriage Laws
In 2011, Illinois recognized the legality of civil union relationships (opposite sex and same sex civil unions) as same sex marriage legislation made its way into the General Assembly. This legislation passed the Senate in 2013, was amended in the House and eventually passed the Senate again. Signed on November 20, 2013 by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, same sex marriage was legalized on June 1, 2014, making it possible for same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses in Illinois and marry following a mandatory 24-hour waiting period.
The Supreme Court Makes Same Sex Marriage Legal in the U.S.
When the Supreme Court made banning same sex marriage unconstitutional in June, 2015, it also eliminated the possibility for state legislatures to repeal laws disallowing same sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. It also erased non-recognition of same sex marriages in states (Illinois, Washington, D.C and over 30 other states) that had already legalized same sex marriage before the ruling.
FAQs about Same Sex Marriage Laws in Illinois
Where Can We Apply for a Same Sex Marriage License in Chicago?
The Cook County Clerk’s office issues all marriage licenses, including for both opposite and same sex couples. Please keep in mind, couples must apply for their licenses in the county where they plan to be married.
How much do same sex marriage licenses cost in Illinois?
Most counties charge $30 per license. Cook County charges $60 for marriage licenses. Be aware that some county clerk’s offices may not accept checks or credit cards. You will want to confirm your payment options in advance.
Can we purchase a same sex marriage license in Cook County but get married in another Illinois county?
No. The marriage license is valid only in the county from which it was issued. Please keep in mind, all Illinois marriage licenses, including same sex marriage licenses, must be certified within 60 days or your license becomes invalid.
We live in Michigan and want to get married in Illinois. Is that possible?
Yes. Same sex couples wishing to get married do not have to be residents of Illinois to apply for a marriage license.
Who can legally obtain a same sex marriage license in Illinois?
Anyone over 18 years old, who is unmarried and unrelated by blood can apply for a same sex marriage license. Exceptions to the age rule are those applicants who are at least 16 years old and have parental consent and proof of age.
What do we need to do to apply for a same sex marriage license in Illinois?
Applicants must both be present at their county clerk’s office to obtain a marriage license. Each person must show a photo ID and sign the application in front of the county clerk.
What do we do after receiving our marriage license?
You must give your license to an authorized individual who will be certifying your same sex marriage. Your license then becomes a marriage certificate. This certificate needs to be returned to the county clerk’s office where you received it within 10 days of your wedding ceremony so that the clerk can officially register the license.
As a legally married, same sex couple, are we eligible for federal programs?
Yes. You and your spouse are eligible for access to all protections and federal programs available to opposite sex married couples. Examples of these benefits include family medical leave and eligibility for receiving survivor’s benefits. For more information about social security and same sex marriage, visit the Social Security website.
Same Sex Divorce
In Illinois, a same sex divorce begins in very much the same way as a divorce between two people of the opposite sex. The same laws apply. However, because same-sex marriage is relatively new to Illinois, same sex divorces have been rare. Many of the individuals that you may come into contact with may not be particularly adept at dealing with same sex couples or in providing you with the guidance you need while tackling issues that tend to be common in same sex divorce. Caution must be used in hiring a lawyer to help you.
Quick Tip: Protect the property you owned before your marriage
by hiring an attorney with experience.
Marital vs. Non-Marital Property
Because same sex marriage is a relatively new concept in Illinois, many individuals entering into same sex marriages have accrued property in their own names prior to marrying. Property may take on many forms, including bank accounts, timeshares, antiques, jewelry, stocks, 401(k)’s, Individual Retirement Accounts, and many more, not just real estate. This property is referred to as non-marital property in Illinois. In a divorce, this property is awarded to the spouse who owned the property prior to the marriage. On the other hand, property acquired during the marriage is characterized as marital property and is subject to equitable division between the spouses in a divorce. Simple, right? Maybe not.
When property brought into the marriage is sold and the proceeds from that property are used to purchase another property after the marriage, complications arise. Although title to property does not necessarily control how it is ultimately awarded in a divorce, but it does play a role. It is possible for property to lose its original characterization and be transmuted to another form making it subject to division between spouses during a divorce. This area of law is very complicated and from those complications can arise some unusual circumstances that result in one spouse unexpectedly sharing what they believed to be their non-marital property with his/her former spouse in a divorce.
Same Sex Divorce and Step-children
Many same sex couples consider their partner’s children as their own children. A family bond is created by the marriage of two individuals, regardless of whether the parties adopt each other’s children. This kind of family is no less real than the family whose children are biologically born to their parents. However, under the old Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, individuals who did not adopt their spouse’s children had no parental rights to those children.
As of January 1, 2015, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was revised to create new rights for step-parents of children in divorce. Never before have step-parents had any parenting rights. This was devastating for children and parents, alike, who were ripped apart by divorce, never to see each other again, simply because no legal relationship existed between the step-parent and the child. The prior law ignored that the emotional and nurturing aspects of the relationship between the child and the step-parent.
Under the new law, parents who do not adopt their spouse’s child still have rights in divorce. Step-parents may file a Petition for Visitation. In the petition, the step-parents are required to state why the parent’s denial of visitation is unreasonable and has caused the child undue mental, physical or emotional harm. The Court may consider the wishes of the child, the mental and physical health of the child and the step-parent, the length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the step-parent as well as other factors that establish that the loss of the relationship between the step-parent and child is harmful to the child.
Choosing an Attorney
The attorneys at Kathryn L. Harry & Associates are well-versed in the nuances of same sex marriage and divorce. Our team of experienced attorneys are sensitive to our clients’ needs and expectations, as well as the difficulties they face because of the make-up of their family unit. Fill out our contact form or call (877) 889-4515 to learn how we can help you.