What You May Not Know About Civil Unions in Illinois

Cheryl Hootenby guest author, Cheryl Hooten of Dream Gay Weddings

As a Wedding Officiant, Chicago native and life long equal rights advocate, I’ve been paying special attention to the fight for marriage equality in Illinois. I’ve read all the blogs and articles about the historic law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn that recognizes Civil Unions and makes them officially available to couple as of June 1, 2011.

But many of those resources are misleading, and very few of them point out the significant things you need to know before you start making any wedding plans.

When To Apply

The most important thing you need to know is that NO ONE can have a legal Civil Union on June 1. Yep, you heard me right. Illinois has a mandatory one day waiting period before any marriage license is valid. Crazy but true.  Don’t feel like you are being singled out, though! They make the straight people wait, too!

Unfortunately, there are many Wedding Officiants out there who will tell you it’s no big deal, they perform marriages for (straight) couples the same day license are issued and think nothing of it; they’ve never been caught or questioned before why should a civil union be any different ~ right?


Your Civil Union documents will be the first of their kind processed in Illinois, so you can bet that every single “i” will be dotted and every “t” crossed. County Clerk employees will make sure that the documents they process are in complete compliance with their understanding of the current Illinois Law which means any Civil Union License submitted to the State with a June 1 wedding date will be rejected and that marriage will be considered invalid.

So, consider yourself warned and start making plans for a legal ceremony on the second of June instead.

Where To Apply

To pull off a June 2 wedding, you’ll need to get to the appropriate County Clerk’s Office as soon as they open on June 1. Keep in mind most County Clerks office’s are used to handling about a dozen marriage license applications on a busy day; historically, hundreds of LGBT couples in other jurisdictions have shown up those first few days to apply so be prepared to wait. Snacks, water, comfy shoes and fully charged phone top my list of waiting line must-haves.

You also need to know that Illinois marriage licenses are only valid in the county they are issued and only good for sixty days. This means you apply in the county in which your marriage ceremony is taking place, NOT in the county you live, and the ceremony must take place within the next 60 calendar days or you have to start all over again.

Check the County’s website for hours and locations; typically they open between 8:00am – 8:30am and close by 4:30pm. Some counties have more then one location where you can apply, but most do not accept credit cards so be sure you have a enough cash or a check with you; fees will vary by County (example: Cook is $40, Will is $28).

Couples who would prefer to skip the courthouse and have a private ceremony in Will

County on 6/2 can contact me, Cheryl, for information and details via info@dreamgayweddings.com.

For additional info, read Cook County to Issue First Civil Union Licenses June 1

How To Apply

The requirements for getting a license are the same everywhere in Illinois; you need to provide sufficient ID, you can’t be too closely related, you cannot already be married or in another civil union, you need to be 18 and, if you’ve divorced or become a widow/widower within the last six months, bring your Final Judgment of Dissolution papers or a certified copy of the death certificate with you.

Although there are many forms of ID, only a few are acceptable for any marriage or civil union license application; a State driver’s license, State identification card, U.S. passport or U.S. Armed Forces identification card will all work.

If you don’t have any of those bring any two of the following: a Certified copy of your Birth Certificate (English translations required for foreign certificates), a U.S. naturalization certificate, a U.S. resident alien card, a Life insurance policy (at least 1 year old), a Foreign passport, a Baptismal record (date of birth must appear) or a Consulate identification card (matricula).

Now that you know when you can have your ceremony, and how and where to get your Civil Union  license, you’re ready to begin planning your Wedding!

For more information on the conversations happening in Chicago on the eve of Civil Unions, read Rex W. Huppke's article from the Chicago Tribune (May 23, 2011).

About the Author

Cheryl Hooten is a Wedding Officiant and the owner of Dream Gay Weddings; a group of gay and gay-friendly officiants who celebrate gay marriage and new marriage equality laws with wedding events across the U.S. Follow her on Twitter.

Sources: Cook County Clerk & Illinois General Assembly.


Editor's Note: This article is intended only as a general overview of the laws applicable to civil unions in Illinois. Some facts may have change since its publish date. You should consult with a legal or tax advisor to discuss the impact of these laws on your personal situation.