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I apologize because today’s blog was supposed to be about why caution in choosing a trustee is important. However, recently I’ve received a number of questions regarding the affects of the Illinois Civil Union Act. Now that the fact that people are free to join who they want in the legal status of a loving union has sunk in some, questions and issues are surfacing.  Individuals, not just from the LGBT community, but from other corners of humanity are interested and want to know more.  Additionally, a business boom has started, which I think is a good thing, but I’m going to address a few questions first.

Q: My boyfriend and I live together [heterosexual couple] and are considering a civil union now and getting married later, how are civil unions dissolved?
A: Civil unions are dissolved just like a divorce, so it’s probably not worth it for heterosexual couples to enter into a civil union and then get divorced in order to get married.

Q: What are the practical implications for LGBT couples?
A: LGBT couples in Illinois, and states that recognize civil unions as legally equivalent to marriages, have all the benefits and obligations of married couples in state.  Because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, (see Defense of Marriage Act, a.k.a., DOMA, which archaically defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman) a multitude of benefits – about 1,138 if an LGBT couple resides in Illinois – are provided through the federal government and, as a result, are not available to partners in a civil union. Likewise, if an LGBT couple travels to a state that doesn’t recognize the union, benefits that are available in Illinois, such as a spousal share through our intestacy code or rights to visit a partner in intensive care, would not be available in that state.

Q: What couples benefit the most from the Civil Union Act?
A: Elderly couples on Medicare who had to live independently from each other because living as a couple would jeopardize their benefits, can now be together as a civil union and maintain their benefits for the very reason partners of most civil unions can’t enjoy federal benefits – their union isn’t recognized by the federal government.

Q: What about domestic partnerships in Illinois?
A: The Illinois domestic partnership registry is no longer open and domestic partners are encouraged to obtain a Civil Union certificate.

Now, a bunch of businesses are booming (well … seeing a significant increase of revenues; I couldn’t resist the alliteration):

  • The Civil Union Act has brought divorce lawyers an entire new market. But let’s hope that particular fruit of this tree for my colleagues won’t ripen for a while.
  • Civil Union ceremonies require flowers, catering, music, officiants – all the things that weddings would – at least for those partners who want that type of celebration. (For some reason the baby shower of an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta springs to mind.) So the hospitality industry is very happy with the new law. P.S. I can recommend a great officiant if you need one – she may even toss in a Celtic hymn if she really likes you!
  • Computer programmers and organizational gurus are enjoying themselves as well because systems and forms have to be replaced or upgraded.

So, the Illinois Civil Union Act has ultimately placed a lot of smiles on citizen’s faces. Now, if Congress would just repeal DOMA.

Thanks for allowing the digression. Part 2 of “Why There’s a Trust in “Trustee” will be available next week.

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