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Marriage Equality in Illinois: Things to Consider after "I Do"

August 6, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Some newlywed same-sex couples in Illinois are learning there's a lot to think about after saying "I do."

Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive of the group Equality Illinois, said they've heard from many of the 5,000 couples who have taken advantage of the state's new "Freedom to Marry" law, who have questions about what marriage equality means for them legally.

"The basic rule of thumb is all the rights, protections, benefits and responsibilities that have been available to different-sex couples in a marriage are now also available to same-sex couples who get married as well," Cherkasov said. "It's true both under state law and under federal law."

He said that includes rights related to probate, health-care decisions, and medical and life insurance. If the marriage ends, it must be dissolved by a state court. Same-sex marriages from other states are recognized in Illinois, and couples with civil unions can convert to a marriage retroactive to the date of their civil union.

Same-sex couples can file both state and federal income taxes jointly. Cherkasov said those who converted from a civil union as of June 1, 2011, and beyond can amend their tax filings to that year.

"In some cases," he said, "they might be able to take advantage of certain tax credits that were available to married couples that they hadn't been able to take before, but now they can."

Cherkosov suggested putting the names of both spouses on any property and wills, and added that having an updated health-care power of attorney also is important.

"Marriages between same-sex couples aren't recognized still, in the majority of the states or in a majority of states around the worl,d and they don't want to get in that situation where they have a medical emergency and they can't make medical emergency decisions for each other," he said. "So, we recommend that they have health-care powers of attorney."

Under Illinois law, any child born into a marriage is considered a child of both partners. Cherkosov recommended that same-sex couples also undergo second-parent adoption proceedings, so both names are on the child's birth certificate.

Additional resources are online at equalityillinois.us.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL