Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook 1 Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 1 (2 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Article Stats   No comments

Exclusive to OpEdNews:
OpEdNews Op Eds

An Incomplete Revolution in Illinois

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H2 11/12/13

Legalizing same-sex marriage is a great step toward greater equality in Illinois; but it is only a partial step in the right direction. As always--when it comes to same-sex marriage--the public's excitement over this momentous achievement can prevent us from looking at the broader picture. In this regard, an unheralded step that Illinois took last week is far more consequential than the more headline-grabbing change trumpeted by the media: at the same time that it legalized same-sex marriage, Illinois held onto its civil union system.

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/104810962@N02/10278684105/: Mrs. and Mrs. marriage equality
Mrs. and Mrs. marriage equality
(image by Purple Sherbet Photography)


Unlike some of its counterparts, such as Vermont and Connecticut, Illinois did not abolish civil unions when it voted to allow same-sex marriage. Nor did it require all civil-union couples to "upgrade" their unions to marriage, as Connecticut did (without asking for their permission). Rather, Illinois has become one of the few states that offer marriage and civil unions--and the two institutions are now open to both opposite- and same-sex couples.   In this way, Illinois is similar to the Netherlands: when same-sex marriage was legalized in that country, the legislature decided to maintain civil unions in order to create a menu of options for the state's recognition of relationships.

          However, it warrants looking at what has happened since the Netherlands started to offer options for relationships. Today, although civil unions are important to a significant (but not large) number of couples--because it gives them the rights and benefits of marriage without marriage's name--the majority of people choose other ways to organize their relationships. Most couples prefer to live with a cohabitation agreement or as married. Indeed, the Netherlands has considered abolishing civil unions because it seems like a legal option of no practical value.

          The lesson is not that civil unions are unnecessary; it is not inevitable that civil unions will become just another dead letter in the code. Rather, civil unions can serve an important function when they are more than just marriage without the name. To be more than just an unused legal institution, civil unions must offer extra flexibility that does not exist in marriage. For example, civil unions could be open to other types of relationships, not just romantic ones (friends, for example). In order for civil unions to be open to and suitable for more types of relationships, they must be more elastic: they must allow people to decide what kind of rights, benefits, and obligations are included between and among the partners.

          In fact, Illinois needs flexible civil unions more than the Netherlands does. This is because, unlike the Netherlands--actually, unlike most other states--Illinois does not enforce contracts between unmarried partners regarding their economic rights. So, in Illinois couples have very little choice: being married, or being married without the name. Certainly, then, flexible civil unions could serve an important function in Illinois.

           The relationships revolution has not ended in Illinois and elsewhere. Same-sex couples--and other partners--do not simply meet and get married; generally, several relational stages precede this decision. Additionally, other people do not want to get married or simply do not get married, for no particular reason. Some enjoy other partnerships, rather than intimate relationships, and also need the protection of the state. For these people, civil unions and same-sex marriage are not the answer.

          The legislature's vote on same-sex marriage in Illinois was a giant step in the direction of equity. Other states that consider legalizing same-sex marriage should follow Illinois' path. But that's not the end of the story. To make relationship-recognition fair and meaningful for all our citizens, we must advocate for Illinois to move ahead in two critical directions: make civil unions more flexible and meaningful, and create an option for nonregistered partners to contract about their relationship.  

 

Assistant Professor of Law, Whittier Law School.

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

An Incomplete Revolution in Illinois

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
No comments