In December 2010, the Illinois General Assembly approved SB 1716 (Public Act 96-1513) and it was signed into law on January 31, 2011. The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act is a bill that allows same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions. This gives them some of the same benefits that are endowed to married couples. This includes the right to visit a sick partner in hospitals, disposition of a deceased loved one’s remains as well as the right to make decisions about their medical care.
Before formalizing a civil union, a couple must obtain a civil union license from the County Clerk’s office.
Eligibility: As of June 1, 2011, under Illinois law, eligible persons can be united in a legally recognized relationship (Public Act 96-1513). Both partners must:
1. Be 18 years of age or older
2. Not be blood relatives
Partners of same or opposite sex may enter into a civil union.
Applying: Couples must appear together at County Clerk’s office. They must:
1. Fill out and sign a civil union license application
2. Present valid identification with proof of age
3. Pay a civil union license fee of $60
Civil union licenses are:
1. Issued while you wait
2. Effective the following calendar day after they are issued
3. Valid for 60 days
4. Effective only for ceremonies performed in Chicago and suburban Cook County
Licenses should be obtained in the county where the ceremony is to occur.
After the civil union ceremony occurs, the officiant performing the ceremony must complete the bottom portion of the civil union license and mail or deliver it to the Clerk’s office.
Upgrading civil unions to marriage
Couples already in a civil union in Illinois can get married by going through same steps as any other couple. Of course, this entails they prove that they meet the requirements (are same parties to the civil union, do not intend to dissolve their civil union, etc.). Typically, they will go through the same process (waiting periods and show requirements as any other eligible marrying couple) but just that there will be no fee for the marriage license.
For the first year of the marriage law, (since June 1, 2014), couples in such a union were allowed to “convert” to marriage by filling out a conversion form with their county clerk.