You obtained a civil union with your partner and now that marriage between same-sex couples is legal in Illinois, you would rather be married. What are our options?
The new Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act was recently signed into law and is scheduled to be effective as of June 1, 2014. The new Act provides that parties to a civil union may convert their civil union to a marriage, should they wish to, under Section 65 of the Act.
Section 65 of the Act provides that the parties will be able to voluntarily convert their civil union, or “other substantially similar relationship” by applying for and receiving a marriage license, and that the fee will be waived. They will need to have the marriage solemnized. The point of this subsection (a) appears to be that the parties to a civil union won’t have to dissolve their civil union before entering into a marriage.
It also appears that the Act will allow, from the period of June 1, 2014-June 1, 2015, couples of a civil union to convert their civil union into a marriage simply by applying for a marriage certificate, signing it and returning it for recording, so no solemnization of the marriage is required. Parties can essentially use their solemnization of their civil union, and the date of the civil union becomes the date of the marriage. This only applies if the civil union has not been dissolved, and, so long as there has not been filed a petition on file to dissolve the civil union.
So, for example, if you and your partner had a civil union ceremony on November 1, 2013 and wish to convert the civil union into a marriage, under the Act, you would need to apply for, return and sign a marriage license between June 1, 2014 and June 1, 2015, and your civil union becomes a marriage as of the date of the civil union (November 1, 2013). Should you choose to wait until after June 1, 2015 to try and convert your civil union into a marriage, you still will be able to, but you will have to solemnize the marriage, and, you will be married as of the date of your marriage and not as of the date of the solemnization of the civil union. You will not, however, have to dissolve your civil union prior to obtaining a marriage.
Of course, the same rules apply to same sex couples as couples that are not of the same sex when it comes to dissolving a civil union or a marriage. Just the same, pre-marital agreements and the law surrounding these agreements likewise apply to same-sex couples. Our attorneys are experienced in drafting such agreements and are available for consultation on any of these issues.