Special Statement from Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois on Marriage in Illinois

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February 24, 2014
Lambda Legal plaintiffs Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe with two of their children.

We have been thrilled over the past few days as dozens of gay and lesbian couples from across Illinois have received their marriage licenses in Cook County. The joy and dignity reflected in the photos and the video underscore the reasons we worked so hard to strike down Illinois' discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Congratulations to those that have already taken steps toward sharing the love and commitment of marriage!

In the past few days, we have heard from many couples who have questions about what the decision in our lawsuit Lee v. Orr means for their particular situation. You can read the most frequently asked questions and answers that we prepared here. However, one question has been repeated with some regularity, so we wanted to address that question.

The Court's decision on February 21st addresses only Illinois' current, discriminatory marriage law. It does not advance the effective date of the marriage law enacted by the Illinois legislature, slated for implementation on June 1, 2014. The marriage law enacted by the legislature includes a provision that allows couples to "convert" their civil union into a marriage, with the effective date for the marriage dated as the day the couple received the civil union. This provision is not affected by the Court’s decision and it goes into effect on June 1, 2014. Couples in a civil union can obtain a marriage license and get married prior to June 1, 2014 (and the marriage license fee is waived), but they may not enjoy the same benefit of using the date of their civil union retroactively as the date of their marriage.

Each individual couple must weigh what is best for their circumstances and situation before taking the step of getting married and may want to consider consulting an attorney before they make this important decision.

Please read our FAQ carefully as part of this process. In the meantime, we hope that everyone will take this moment to celebrate the joy and love that we are seeing in Illinois this week. Love and commitment have prevailed in the Land of Lincoln, and we toast in celebration. Cheers!