Same-sex couples in Illinois reached another milestone earlier this month, after the state’s Attorney General wrote a letter urging that all county clerks in Illinois allow same-sex couples to marry immediately, instead of waiting until June, when the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act is scheduled to take effect. Although federal law defines marriage as the union between a woman and a man, one of the objectives of family law is to protect the rights of same-sex couples.
On February 21, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that marriage licenses could be distributed immediately in Cook County. The rule applied only to Cook County because a class-action suit was filed against that county. However, in a recent letter from the Illinois Attorney General to the Macon County Clerk, she said that the Constitution’s guaranteed protections should exist regardless of county lines. Given recent federal rulings and the non-binding ruling in Cook County, if another county were to deny a marriage license to a same-sex couple, they could face legal action. In addition, the Governor has gone record as stating that he believes that when it comes to love, no one should have to wait for equal rights.
Same-sex marriages face many of the same legal issues that heterosexual marriages face, with a few differences. In some states, same-sex couples may be able to jointly adopt a child without being married. For same-sex married couples, state benefits may only be available in states that allow same-sex marriages.
Whether a person is satisfied with the current same-sex marriage laws or would like to see more change, the laws for same-sex couples are constantly evolving. A family lawyer may be able to help same-sex couples decide if marriage is the right move or not, as well as give updates on any up-and-coming new laws. The Illinois Attorney General’s actions may have set an example for other states that do not currently allow same-sex marriages, but only time will reveal the result.
Source: Chicago Sun Times, “Lisa Madigan: Illinois counties can allow same-sex marriages now,” LeeAnn Shelton, March 5, 2014