Same-Sex Marriage in Illinois

Although Illinois residents have enjoyed a strong civil union law for some time now, the legal recognition of same-sex marriage that took effect in the state on June 1 is still a landmark change with far-reaching ramifications. LGBT couples in Illinois would do well to take some time to understand how this law affects them and what they must do to fully enjoy the rights conferred under this new law. 

Since 2011, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act allowed same-sex couples to enter into a legal relationship that did not technically amount to marriage but conferred most of the same state rights. However, same-sex couples continued to be denied access to the federal benefits of marriage. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down these federal laws in the landmark case of United States v. Windsor, requiring the federal government to recognize all marriages legally created under state law. Because Illinois civil unions were not technically marriages, though, the federal government was still not required to recognize them. This situation finally changed with the passage of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act and the official recognition of same-sex marriage. 

Although many of the same rights are attached to civil unions and marriage, there are several formerly unavailable rights that married same-sex couples in Illinois can now enjoy: 

  • The right to file joint federal tax returns and to be treated as married for federal tax purposes 
  • The right to enjoy benefits for the spouses of federal employees 
  • The right to Social Security benefits for spouses 
  • The right to military and veteran benefits for spouses 

If you are in a same-sex marriage or considering entering into one and are concerned about how it may affect your legal rights, an experienced Illinois family law attorney may be able to give you the peace of mind you need-and help you perform the estate and tax planning necessary to acclimate to the new law.

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