Same-sex couples in Illinois are currently in a legal gray area. Since 2010, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act has allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. A civil union provides many important state rights regarding state tax filing options, inheritances, health care decisions and more. However, the federal Defense of Marriage Act denied these couples federal benefits like Social Security and the option to file a joint federal tax return. That is, until the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down that part of DOMA.
However, federal benefits for married couples are still restricted to just that – couples who are legally married. Gay couples in civil unions still do not qualify. The shifting legal landscape, however, has sparked 25 Illinois couples who had previously challenged the state’s gay marriage ban in court to ask the judge to expedite her ruling in recognition of the new urgency surrounding the issue. A ruling could come as soon as August 6.
The changing state and federal laws applicable to same-sex partnerships have serious implications for these individuals. While many are understandably focused on the right to have their marriages recognized, it’s also important for same-sex partners to have a sense of what could happen if they should choose to separate. Questions of property division and spousal support, as in any marriage, must be addressed; if a same-sex couple has adopted children, they will need to resolve issues of child custody and child support.
Given the rapidly evolving laws at both the state and federal levels, it is important that same-sex partners understand just what legal rights and options they have in different situations. An Illinois family law professional can help same-sex partners make well-informed decisions about their lives and their futures.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Illinois Gay Marriage Lawsuit: Couples Seek Ruling In Case On Heels Of SCOTUS Decision,” Tammy Weber, July 10, 2013