Protecting Your Rights

Are there reasons why I should not get a civil union?

A civil union will have many of the rights and responsibilities of marriage. People may decide not to enter a civil union for the same reasons that people choose not to get married, including disqualification from state public assistance programs based on joint income.

Same-sex couples have other considerations too. For example:

  • The military may use a civil union between persons of the same sex as evidence to discharge a service member under its discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. (Learn more about the current status of repeal from the Service Members Legal Defense Network.)
  • Entering a civil union could also create problems for people with certain immigration statuses. Download a fact sheet from GLAD.
  • If you are adopting a child from a state or country which allows single parent adoptions, but forbids adoptions by lesbians, gay men, or same-sex couples, a civil union may complicate the adoption or even prevent it from going forward.

If you have questions about any of these situations, you should consult a lawyer.

If my partner and I decide to enter into a civil union, is there anything else we should do to protect our relationship?

In addition to executing powers of attorney and, if you have children, obtaining a second-parent adoption to protect both of your parental relationships, you should seek legal advice about additional precautions you may need to take. Laws regarding same-sex couples are changing rapidly and will continue to do so. Those changes may affect your legal rights in Illinois and in other states and countries where you may travel or may live in the future.

I am having trouble getting a license for a civil union before my county clerk. What should I do?

The law requires county clerks to take certain steps in formalizing civil unions. If your local county clerk is refusing to issue licenses and certificates, contact us:

This set of questions and answers is for education purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. For specific answers to your individual situation, please see an attorney.

By Phone: (312) 201-9740
(800) 572-1092 (inside Illinois only)
By Fax: (312) 201-9760
By Post: ACLU of Illinois Intake Department
180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2300
Chicago, IL 60601

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