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A civil union is a legally recognized union of two individuals which allows the couple to receive certain benefits and protections provided to married couples with the passage of the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection & Civil Union Act in December 2010. In Illinois, civil unions are available to both homosexual and heterosexual couples so long as both parties are 18 years of age or older, are not related and are single. By entering into a civil union in Illinois or same-sex marriage in another state, a couple is given the same property and inheritance rights that are provided to married couples in the State of Illinois. Civil unions also provide a couple with the legal ability to make decisions for one another in the event that a debilitating illness or other matters of life and death arise.
In addition, civil unions protect couples on an individual level in the event the couple would like to end their relationship, which process is under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. For instance, if a couple who has a civil union has purchased property together, there is opportunity for assets to be distributed fairly in a court of law. By providing legal terms for the dissolution of a civil union under existing laws, the State of Illinois has created an additional way for individuals' rights to be protected through civil unions.
Before entering into a civil union, there is much to consider. While a civil union provides you and your partner with certain rights that you otherwise would not have, ensuring that your best interests are protected through the creation of this legal responsibility is essential. You need to consider the long-term obligations that a civil union will and will not establish.
Because civil unions are a relatively new phenomenon in Illinois, individuals find that they have many questions about the specific aspects of a civil union and their dissolution. The Law Firm of Wendy R. Morgan provides competent, skilled and compassionate representation when parties seek to enter into or to dissolve a civil union.
It is important to realize that due to the 1996 passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, a civil union will not provide any federal benefits.
Currently, couples in a civil union, domestic partnership, or same-sex marriage are not entitled to over 1,000 federal benefits, including but not limited to:
- A couple joined in a civil union cannot filed joint Federal Tax Returns or claim marital deductions on their individual Federal Tax Returns
- The partner of a Federal employee joined in a civil union is not entitled to most spousal health insurance and other Federal employee health benefits
- Civil union partners are required to report all gifts and inheritances from their civil union partner on their individual Federal Tax Returns
- Civil union partners may not be eligible to be a spousal beneficiary or to participate as an alternate payee with respect to many pension plans
- Civil unions are not recognized in all states and civil union partners may not be permitted to make medical decisions for their partner in medical facilities located outside of a state? which recognizes their legal relationship
States that recognize civil unions and domestic partnerships include, but are not limited to California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Same-sex marriage is recognized and performed in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
The status of same-sex marriage in Illinois and throughout the country is rapidly evolving. On February 14, 2013, the Illinois Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage by approving the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. Soon after that historic vote, the Illinois House Executive Committee voted to advance the bill to the House floor. If the bill is approved by the House, Governor Quinn has pledged to sign the bill into law. In addition, in or before June 2013, the United States Supreme Court will rule on two cases, Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Edith Schlain Windsor, in Her Capacity as Executor of the Estate of Thea Clara Spyer, et al., which could change the status of same-sex marriage in this country. We are staying up-to-date on the progress of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act and the Supreme Court's coming decisions in both cases and are preparing for the changes in the law to come.
If you have any concerns related to entering into or dissolving a civil union as well as questions regarding the benefits not available to couples in a civil union, our experienced attorneys at The Law Firm of Wendy R. Morgan are here to discuss your concerns and assist you in making the best decisions for you and your family.
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