Impact of New Civil Union Legislation in Illinois?

In late January, thousands outside of Chicago’s Cultural Center celebrated as Governor Pat Quinn signed the new Civil Union legislation.

Taking effect June 1, 2011, this gave a few months for county registrars and county clerks to prepare for handing out civil union licenses.

Yet what are the implications?

To many, this new law simply means civil union for same-sex couples, with rights similar to those in marriage.

However, uncertainty in the full reach of its provisions has many questioning possible ramifications.

It is generally expected that civil unions will create more work for some offices and employees, although the exact change in workload is vague.

According to Chicago Family Law Attorney, known as one of the pioneering women-owned law firms in Chicago, “the new law will present more responsibility to those who decide to enter into a civil union agreement, regardless of whether the couple is of the same or opposite sex.”

“It is important for those couples who are considering a civil union to recognize that this legal commitment not only gives them many of the same legal rights as married people, but it also presents similar legal issues,” said a spokesperson for the Chicago Family Law Attorney, “such as the prospect of a divorce in the event that a couple would like to end their civil union.”

For some organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinous, the legal ramifications are far-reaching and much more constroversial than it appears on the surface.

According to the ACLU, “some of the same forces that wanted to deny lesbian and gay couples any recognition in our state want to twist that law to write discrimination in to this historic measure aimed at fairness.”

Chicago Family Law Attorny described the legistration: “Civil Unions will grant non-married couples the right to see their sick partner in the hospital, control the disposition of their deceased partner’s remains, and make medical decisions for their partner. Civil unions will be available to any couple in a committed relationship involving two individuals who are 18-years-old or older, not married, not currently in a civil union, and not related.”

However, according to the firm, “it will also ensure that religious institutions can define marriage based on their own accord.”

So, here is the controversy: the repercussions that religious institutions will be able to define marriage to their own accord.  And therefore, not be required to bless unions of same-sex couples.

Hasn’t this always been the case?

However, the act does not say anything regarding same-sex parents.

And according to ACLU, this means the law would permit religiously-based adoption agencies acting on behalf of the State of Illinois to discriminate against couples who have entered into a civil union. And as a result, place children at risk of being denied suitable family placement.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Governor Pat Quinn and the Department of Children and Family Services intend to study the Civil Union Act as well as the Illinois Human Rights Act and the Illinois Constitution to decide whether this will prohibit agencies from taking sexual orientation into account in foster care and adoption.

In support of giving openly gay parents a foster care license, a spokesperson for DCFS, said, “Social intervention such as adoption laws and practices inevitably reflect their communities. Illinois as a state has grown on this [gay rights] issue as evidenced by [civil union legislation]. Adoption law and practice should reflect the values of the people of Illinois.”

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