A Larger View of What Just Happened

Passing a civil unions law this week hardly makes Illinois a trailblazer, considering that Vermont began offering civil unions for same-sex couples back in 2000. At the same time, Illinois is now entering a (sadly) short list of states recognizing same-sex couples.

A few points about the significance of this law’s passage:

  • Illinois will be one of only three states in the Midwest to offer any form of recognition of same-sex relationships (along with Iowa and Wisconsin).
  • Illinois will be one of only 12 jurisdictions nationwide offering a legal relationship recognition status for same-sex couples including all of the state-level rights of marriage.
  • Unlike the same-sex recognition laws in many states, the Illinois General Assembly was not ordered by a court ruling to pass this law.
  • With about 12.9 million people, Illinois will be among the highest population states recognizing same-sex couples. Illinois is the nation’s fifth most populous state. Two larger population states – Texas and Florda – offer no recognition for same-sex couples. California, the nation’s most populous state, which allowed same-sex marriage for only a few months in 2008, continues to offers a domestic partnership status with the full rights of marriage. New York does not offer domestic partnerships, civil unions, or marriage to same-sex couples, but does honor same-sex marriages performed in other states.
  • When this law goes into effect, more than a quarter of the U.S. population (28%) will live in a jurisdiction recognizing same-sex marriage or its equivalent. Read more.

Here is the nationwide recap (and check out a handy map here):

Full Marriage Equality

  • Massachusetts (2003)
  • Connecticut (2008)
  • Iowa (2009)
  • Vermont (2009)
  • New Hampshire (2010)
  • District of Columbia (2010)

Civil Unions/Domestic Parnterships Offering All the Rights of Marriage (the category that Illinois will be in next year):

  • California (2005 – domestic partnerships)
  • New Jersey (2007 – civil unions)
  • Oregon (2008 – domestic partnerships)
  • Washington (2008 – domestic partnerships)
  • Nevada (2009 – domestic partnerships)

Partnership Laws Offering Some of the Rights of Marraige:

  • Hawaii (1997 – reciprocal beneficiaries)
  • Maine (2004 – domestic partnerships)
  • Maryland (2008 – domestic partnerships)
  • Colorado (2009 – designated beneficiaries)
  • Wisconsin (2009 – domestic partnerships)

Marriages Recognized But Not Performed:

  • Rhode Island (2004 – opinion by Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch)
  • New York (2009 – ordered by Gov. David Patterson)
  • Maryland (2010 – opinion from Attorney General Doug Gansler)
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