Gay marriage now law of land in Illinois

  • Theresa Volpe, left, and Mercedes Santos show off their marriage certificate after being married in Cook County in February. Other Chicago-area counties start offering same-sex marriage licenses Monday.

    Theresa Volpe, left, and Mercedes Santos show off their marriage certificate after being married in Cook County in February. Other Chicago-area counties start offering same-sex marriage licenses Monday. Associated Press File Photo

By Zachary White
Updated 6/1/2014 6:39 AM

Many same-sex couples from across the suburbs will be allowed to marry in their home counties for the first time beginning Monday.

Illinois' law allowing same-sex marriage was approved last year and took effect today, but Monday is the first day when collar county offices are open and are set to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.


Cook County started issuing same-sex marriage licenses months ago, saying a federal legal decision allowed it, and it has given out approximately 1,140 marriage licenses to same-sex couples so far. Fifteen downstate Illinois counties also started issuing licenses as early as February.

Officials in other suburban counties expect to see a flurry of people getting licenses Monday morning, but not to the degree that was seen in Cook County.

"I do not think we will have the rush that Chicago had, and other big cities had," Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said.

Cunningham said he expects a few hundred people to come in during the first week.

Also for the first time, all counties, including those already issuing marriage licenses, will begin allowing people to convert civil unions to marriages. Illinois first recognized civil unions in 2011.

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Cook County Clerk David Orr said he expects a steady stream of people who want to make the change, but not a blitz similar to what happened when same-sex couples could first get married in the state.

"They don't feel the same kind of panic," he said.

Still, officials in most collar counties assume they will have couples waiting to be recognized when the business day starts Monday.

DuPage County Clerk Gary King said some couples have called with questions about the new procedures.

"Primarily it's been couples who already have a civil union and are trying to convert it," King said.

Here's how the new law will work, according to county clerks and the American Civil Liberties Union:

How is marriage different from a civil union?

Couples who have civil unions do not have the same protections under the law. According to Lake County Clerk Willard Helander, civil union couples may not receive the same insurance benefits, survivor benefits or next-of-kin rights, and some states might not recognize the status of a civil union outside of their state.


Other benefits not shared by civil union couples might include veterans' spousal benefits, immigration rights gained through marriage, the right to file taxes as a couple, exemptions based on partner's health benefits, an inheritance tax exemption, and other federal protections given to married couples.

What if a same-sex couple already was married out of state?

Illinois will recognize marriages, and other contracts like civil unions or domestic partnerships, that were entered into outside of Illinois.

What happens to civil unions?

Illinois same-sex couples with civil unions can have marriages recognized retroactively to the date they got the civil union. However, if a couple want to have a separate marriage date, they can do that as well. A couple must have a civil union converted into a marriage in the county where they received the civil union.

Do churches that oppose same-sex marriages have to hold ceremonies?


How does someone get a marriage license?

Both people have to appear at a county clerk's office in person to fill out an application for a marriage license, which requires some form of identification like a driver's license, passport or birth certificate. There is also usually a marriage license fee, but conversion from a civil union to a marriage is free.

Once someone has a license, what's next?

Once a marriage license is obtained, it is valid for 60 days in the county it was issued. An official such as a judge or minister must complete the marriage certificate to confirm the marriage and then return it to the county clerk within 10 days of the wedding. Conversions from civil unions to marriages can be done immediately.

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