Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act

Earlier this month we shared with our members that Gov. Pat Quinn signed in to law the Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act.

This law becomes effective on June 1, 2011.

What is this law?

It defines a civil union as a legal relationship between two persons of the same or opposite sex.  Further, the law states that couples, under a civil union, are entitled to the same legal obligations, protections, and benefits afforded by Illinois law to spouses.

What does this mean?

Effective June 1, this law ensures 650 plus rights, benefits and protections previously only granted to married couples (man and woman) and their families now be guaranteed for couples and their families enter in a civil union.  They include:

  • Equal access to spousal benefits (including workers’ compensation and spousal pension coverage).  This requirement currently applies only if the insurance contract is written in the state of Illinois.  It will not apply if the insurance contract is written in another state or if the benefits are self-insured.
  • Equal tax treatment at the state and local level
  • Certain protections against losing joint property to creditors
  • Equal access to domestic relations laws and procedure (including divorce and division of property)
  • Equal access to civil actions dependent upon spousal status (wrongful death actions)
  • Spousal testimonial privilege
  • Emergency medical decision-making power and hospital visitation rights

How does this affect you?

If your handbook, insurance paperwork, policies, procedure manual, or any other documents make reference that these benefits are only available to spouses or married individuals they will need to be changed.

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