The McLean County Clerk’s office began issuing same-sex marriage licenses Monday, two months ahead of schedule.
In November, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a new piece of legislation permitting same-sex marriages. This made Illinois the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. This new legislation would go into effect on June 1.
The title of the new law is the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
Previously in Illinois, same-sex couples were only able to obtain civil unions. This legislation was titled the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.
A civil union as defined by the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act provided persons entering into a civil union with the obligations, responsibilities, protections and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.
The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act differs by providing same-sex, different-sex couples and their children equal access to the status, benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities of all civil marriages.
In addition, a couple who has already obtained a civil union in Illinois cannot come into the McLean County Clerk’s office to convert the civil union into a marriage until June 1.
“On June 1, the date of their civil union is the date of the marriage license, so they don’t ‘lose’ that original date,” McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael said. “Some got their civil union on a parents’ anniversary date for example.”
The law does state a civil union license can be upgraded to a marriage license free of charge during the first year of the law.
“If the couple obtained a civil union that date just goes away so to speak, and their anniversary becomes the date they get married,” Michael said.
If a couple comes in they would obtain a marriage license that is good for 60 days. This is congruent with all marriage licenses in Illinois. Furthermore, the couple then must have a ceremony within the next 60 days to make it valid.
The expedited date for McLean County to issue same-sex marriage licenses, instead of waiting until June 1, can be attributed to a Feb. 21 U.S. District Court ruling that same-sex marriages can begin immediately. Counties do not have to wait until June 1. This case took place in Cook County.
As a result, several other counties in Illinois have followed suit in issuing same-sex marriages licenses in advance.
The McLean County Clerk’s office for questions on same-sex marriage licenses or how to set up an appointment can be reached at (309) 888-5190.