Entering into a Civil Union

Who can get a civil union?

Two people can enter a civil union if they are:

  • at least 18 years old;
  • not in a civil union, marriage, or another substantially similar legal relationship;
  • not closely related to each other (for example, not a sibling, descendent, aunt, uncle, or cousin).

Are civil unions just for same-sex couples?

No. Any couple, whether they are of the same or different sex, can enter a civil union. Some different-sex couples may decide to enter a civil union instead of a marriage because of the impact of marriage on certain federal benefits, such as social security survivor benefits, or on certain private pension or health insurance benefits.

When will civil unions become available in Illinois?

The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act will become effective on June 1, 2011.

How can my partner and I enter a civil union?

First, you must fill out an application and present it to the county clerk, with any applicable fees. Once the county clerk ensures that you are qualified for a civil union, he or she will issue a license and a certificate for a civil union. The license becomes effective the next day and expires after 60 days.

Once you receive the license and certificate, the civil union must be certified. A civil union may be certified by a judge, a retired judge, a county clerk in counties with more than 2,000,000 inhabitants, by public officials who may solemnize marriages, or by an officiant in accordance with any religious denomination, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group. Religious organizations are not required to officiate at a civil union, but they may do so if they wish. The person who officiates over your civil union must complete the certificate and return it to the county clerk within 10 days.

I’ve been told that I have to have the certification in the same county where I got my license.  Is that true?

Yes.  Just like with marriage licenses, a license for a civil union is effective in the county where it was issued.  That means that your certification (or ceremony) must take place in the same county where you received your license.   So, for example, if you want to have your ceremony in Champaign County, you should apply for a license in Champaign County.

Can we enter a civil union in Illinois even though we don’t live there?

Yes. But prior to issuing a civil union license, the county clerk will verify — through affidavits or other means — that you are not prohibited from entering into such a legal relationship by the laws of your home state.

If I already registered as a domestic partner with my city or my employer, do I have to do anything else?

Yes! To get the benefits of a civil union, you will need to take the steps described above.