In June of 2011, Governor Quinn signed into life a “Civil Union” Law FOR THE State of Illinois. This allows opposite or same sex couples to unite in a “Civil Union” which is almost akin to marriage. The law states that any rights a spouse has under Illinois Law is applicable to a partner in a Civil Union. That includes rights to inherit from the other party, being “next of kin” for making medical decisions on behalf of the other party, etc. However, since it is not a Federal Law, anything to do with the IRS and taxation on a federal level do not apply. Therefore, you can not file a joint tax return as a married couple to realize certain tax advantages. You also will often have capital gains taxes involved upon transferring the residence of the partners upon a dissolution of the partnership whereas people legally married are exempt from certain taxes on transfers subject to a dissolution of marriage proceeding. Also, paying maintenance is a tax write off for the payor, and is considered income for the payee for married couples getting a divorce. That would not apply to partners dissolving a Civil Union with one party paying maintenance.
The pluses of a Civil Union tend to far outweigh the issues that it does not accomplish. For instance, partners can purchase property in “Tenancy by the Entirety”, which protects the property from any Judgments levied against only one of the partners to attach to the real property. Most companies will make benefits such as health insurance and life insurance available to partners pursuant to a Civil Union, just as they do to spouses who are married.
Civil Unions can be dissolved just like marriages and will be governed under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. This is a huge improvement. In the past, partnership dissolutions were treated as business dissolutions which does not begin to take into account the issues that a committed couple would have in the ownership and accrual of property. The prenuptial laws apply to Civil Unions, as well. This allows couples to determine what would happen in case of dissolution or a death of one of the partners in advance. While “Life Partner Agreements” were enforceable in the past, they were enforceable as a business arrangement, and the Prenuptial Statute gives people considerably more leniency. The Civil Union statute simplifies parentage for partners to a Civil Union, whether the child is adopted, created by artificial insemination, or otherwise. Parties have homestead rights to each others residential real property just as married couples do. That means that if your house is in foreclosure, both partners have the right to notice and to be part of the proceedings, not just the one partner who might be on the mortgage. It also means if the domicile of the parties is held in one partner’s name, that partner can not sell that house without the other partner’s agreement. If on partner were to become disabled, the remaining partner would be the first choice of the Court as Guardian of the disabled partner.
The Civil Union Act is a new Law, and as such, it is enforcement and interpretation is not 100% clear. However, it is clearly not only a huge step forward in recognizing the basic human rights of same sex couples; it is also a much needed tool in the law in working with unmarried couples on legal issues. All in all, the Civil Union Act is not only a huge step forward in recognizing the basic human rights of same sex couples; it is also a much needed tool in the Law in working with unmarried couples.