Same-sex marriage in Illinois
|Legal status of
*Not yet in effect
Illinois established civil unions as of June 1, 2011, when Governor Quinn signed legislation on January 31, 2011. The law allows both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to form civil unions and provides state recognition of substantially similar legal relationships, including same-sex marriages and civil unions, entered into in other jurisdictions.
Same-sex marriage legislation was introduced in successive sessions of the General Assembly from 2007 to 2013. It passed the Senate in February 2013, but legislators delayed a vote in the House while lobbying for votes until November 5, 2013, when the House passed an amended version of the bill by a narrow margin. The Senate quickly approved the amended bill and Governor Quinn signed it into law on November 20. The law went into effect (statewide) on June 1, 2014, with same-sex couples able to apply for marriage licenses and then marry after the mandatory one-day waiting period.
On February 21, 2014, a U. S. district court judge ruled that same-sex couples in Cook County could marry immediately and need not wait for the law to take effect on June 1. On February 26, 2014, Champaign County clerk officials, citing the Cook County ruling, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A March 4 opinion on the Cook County ruling by the state Attorney General suggested other county clerks could do the same, and the response from county clerks has been inconsistent. Eight counties were issuing licenses by March 12: Cass, Champaign, Cook, Grundy, Jackson, Macon, McLean, and St. Clair. By April 15, that number had grown to 16 counties.
In 1996, because Hawaii seemed poised to legalize same-sex marriage, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was amended to prohibit marriage between two individuals of the same sex and state that "marriage between 2 individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of this State".
Representative Greg Harris introduced the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Bill on February 23, 2007. It aimed to make the creation, benefits, and dissolution of civil unions essentially identical to marriage. The bill was not brought to a vote before the full House. On February 18, 2009, Harris re-introduced the civil union bill, which was reported out of committee following a 4–3 vote along party lines, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed, but died on the floor. Instead of proceeding with that bill, Harris's committee substituted the language for that in a bill already before the committee on May 26, 2009. On November 30, 2010, the House passed the bill by a vote of 61–52. The Senate approved it on December 1 by a vote of 32–24. Governor Quinn signed the legislation on January 31, 2011, and it went into effect on June 1, 2011.
Following the Governor's signature of the 2013 law that legalized same-sex marriage in Illinois, civil unions remain in effect and operative for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Couples who want to convert their civil union to a marriage can do so, with or without performing a new ceremony, for up to one year from the date that the marriage law takes effect (June 1, 2014). Those couples will be exempt from paying a fee. The date of the marriage will be recorded as the date of the original civil union. Couples who wait longer than one year will have to perform a new ceremony and pay a fee.
Same-sex marriage legislation
On February 22, 2007, Representative Greg Harris introduced the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Bill in the Illinois House of Representatives, which would have provided for same-sex marriage in the state. The bill died in committee. On January 14, 2009, Harris reintroduced the bill in the new session, but it once again died in committee. In October that year, Senator Heather Steans introduced the Equal Marriage Bill, the first same-sex marriage bill filed in the Senate, but it too died in committee.
In February 2012, Harris introduced his bill again. On December 13, Harris and Sen. Heather Steans announced plans for the General Assembly to consider the legislation before it dissolved early in January 2013.
On January 2, 2013, at the end of the 97th General Assembly, Steans re-introduced her bill as an amendment to an unrelated Senate bill. After a legislative misstep, she again introduced the legislation as an amendment, this time to a House bill. The Senate Executive Committee approved the amendment on January 3, 2013, sending it to the full Senate for a floor vote, but the bill fell with the beginning of the 98th General Assembly on January 9.
Steans and Harris filed new bills on January 9[n 1] and 10, respectively. Steans's bill was approved by the Senate Executive Committee on February 5, 2013. On 14 February 2013 the Senate approved the bill in a 34–21 vote. Governor Pat Quinn said he would sign the bill into law if the Illinois House of Representatives also passed it. On February 26, 2013, the Illinois House Executive Committee approved the bill by a 6–5 vote. Harris, anticipating its defeat, did not call for a vote before the legislature adjourned on May 31, but instead extended the deadline for its approval until August 31, allowing for it to be considered by a special session of the legislature if Governor Quinn identifies it for consideration should he call the legislature into special session as expected. A special session was held on pension reform, the same-sex marriage bill however was not included. Instead, LGBT organizations and the bill's sponsors focused instead on increasing support for the legislation, with the goal of holding a vote in the October and November veto session of the House and Senate.
The House of Representatives passed a bill (SB10) legalizing same-sex marriage by a 61–54 vote on November 5, 2013, narrowly achieving the 60-vote threshold. The state Senate quickly approved the amended bill by a 32–21 vote margin and Governor Quinn signed the bill into law on November 20. The law went into effect on June 1, 2014, enabling same-sex couples to request marriage licenses on that date and perform ceremonies, after the mandatory one-day waiting period, from June 2, 2014, although a court allowed a same-sex couple to be married on November 27, 2013.
Reactions and commentary
In February 2012, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would work for the passage of a same-sex marriage bill. Gov. Quinn said he was looking forward to building a majority for the legislation and reiterated his support for same-sex marriage on May 11, 2012. A spokesman for Catholic Conference of Illinois reiterated its opposition and said he was unaware of any legislators whose positions had changed. Another opponent, Sen. Tim Bivins, noted that in comparable lame duck legislative sessions, Gov. Quinn had rewarded legislators who changed their votes with positions in his administration. On December 29, a spokesman for President Barack Obama reported his endorsement of the legislation: "While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect. As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally."
On January 1, 2013, Archbishop of Chicago Francis, Cardinal George in a letter to Roman Catholic parishioners wrote that enacting same-sex marriage was "acting against the common good of society", adding, "The state has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible." For several weeks Pat Brady, state Republican Chairman, lobbied legislators to support the legislation, calling it "an issue of equality and we're the party of Lincoln", and other party leaders called for his resignation.
On January 10, Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck endorsed the legislation, saying that "[m]arriage equality is a civil rights issue", even though her church forbids her from celebrating such marriages. A group of business leaders, including representatives of Google, Orbitz, and Morningstar, on January 13 asked legislators to consider the economic advantages of enacting same-sex marriage, noting that "human capital drives innovation and growth" and "[m]arriage equality would strengthen the workforces of Illinois employers".
On November 5, President Obama tweeted "This is huge...the Illinois House just passed marriage equality." The White House also released a statement by the President stating: "As President, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law. Over time, I also came to believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married like anyone else. So tonight, Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours – and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law." Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel tweeted his reaction: "With one vote, countless couples will be acknowledged for what they are under the law – families just like everyone else. Great day!"
Bishop Larry D. Trotter, who helped lead opposition to the bill, applauded legislators "who stood up for God. Regardless of the passage of SB10, we will always believe that marriage is between one man and one woman," Trotter said. "Yet we will still love the members of the LGBT community. We pray God's Grace, Mercy and Blessings over the state of Illinois and the United States of America."
On May 30, 2012, both Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union announced lawsuits in state court, Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr, challenging the refusal of the Cook County Clerk's office headed by David Orr to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Both contend that the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act violates the Illinois Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced the next day that her office will support those lawsuits, and Orr favors same-sex marriage. The Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has also conceded that the state's ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. On July 3, the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division, approved the request of two County Clerks from other parts of the state, represented by the Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group, to intervene to defend the Act. On November 30, it denied requests by the Church of Christian Liberty, Grace Gospel Fellowship, and the Illinois Family Institute, opponents of same-sex marriage, to be allowed to intervene to defend the law.
In July 2013, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, the plaintiffs in both cases filed motions for summary judgment, asking for a swift ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in Illinois. Circuit Judge Sophia Hall heard arguments on August 6 and rejected a motion to dismiss the case on September 27. Both cases were dismissed on December 17.
In November 2013, a federal judge ordered that a female same-sex couple be allowed to marry because one of them was terminally ill. On December 6, four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit, Lee v. Orr, in federal district court seeking the right to marry without waiting for Illinois' statute to take effect. Two of the couples included a partner suffering from a serious illness. On December 10, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman of the Northern District of Illinois ruled that any same-couple could marry if one of them is terminally ill. On February 21, she ruled in a lawsuit against the Cook County Clerks Office that same-sex couples could begin marrying in that county immediately without waiting for the Illinois statute legalizing same-sex marriage to take effect on June 1.
Response to decision in Lee v. Orr
Cook County Clerk David Orr announced his office would accept applications for marriage licenses immediately. His office fulfilled 46 requests for marriage licenses from same-sex couples that day. On February 26, 2014, Champaign County clerk officials, citing the ruling in Lee v. Orr, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and Grundy County followed suit on February 27.
The Macon County Clerk asked the Attorney General if he could issue licenses to same-sex couples. In response, on March 4, Attorney General Madigan issued an opinion that said that the Lee decision did not require county clerks to so do, but said that lawsuits similar to Lee would produce the same result. She left the decision to the individual county clerk but made her own interpretation clear: "the Lee decision, along with the federal court decisions noted above, should be persuasive as you evaluate whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples". Governor Quinn said that on the basis of Madigan's statement the Illinois Department of Public Health would record marriages issued by any county clerk. LGBT advocates said Madigan's statement "green lights" county clerks to issue the licenses. St. Clair County began issuing licenses to same-sex couples the next day, and officials in Cass and Jackson Counties said they would do so. Macon County announced it would issues such licenses beginning March 10, and those in McLean County said their start date was March 24. Officials in Lake, DeKalb, Kane, DuPage, and McHenry Counties said they would wait until June 1, the effective date of the state statute. How clerks in most of Illinois' 102 counties would respond was not immediately clear, but Illinois couples were able to apply for a marriage license from any county, and some couples who live in other counties have obtained licenses in Cook County.
The 2005, Illinois Policy Survey found that 31 percent of residents supported the legal right to marry someone of the same sex, and an additional 34 percent of residents supported civil unions.
In a 2010 New York Times poll, 48% of Illinois residents support legalizing same-sex marriage.
A September 2012 statewide poll by Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found 44% of registered voters supported same-sex marriage, another 32% supported civil unions for same-sex couples, and 20% opposed any form of legal recognition of same-sex relationships, while 4% remain undecided. The percentage of those polled supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage increased 10% since a poll two years earlier.
A November 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that a plurality of voters in the state of Illinois approved of same-sex marriage: 47% of voters were in favor, 42% were opposed, 11% were not sure.
A February 2013 Crain's/Ipsos poll found that 50% of Illinois residents favored the same-sex marriage under consideration by the legislature, while 29% opposes it. The survey also found that feelings were stronger among those favoring legalization.
A October 2013 Equality Illinois poll showed 52% of the state favored gay marriage, while 40% were opposed. 8% were undecided on the issue.
A December 2013 Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 52% of Illinois residents support same-sex marriage, while 39% opposed, and 9% didn't know or refused to answer.
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- A Shifting Landscape
- Full text of IL Public Act 096-1513 – Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act
- Illinois General Assembly – Bill Status for SB1716
- Full Text of SB0010 – Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act