Impact of Illinois Civil Union Law on Plans Maintained by Religious Organizations

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Illinois recently made news when it legalized civil unions beginning June 1, 2011. Because civil union partners will have the same rights as spouses under state law, many religious organizations’ benefit plans could be affected. Determining whether coverage of civil union partners is required hinges upon the type of benefit plan, whether the benefit is insured and whether the plan is subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

Illinois recently made news when it legalized civil unions beginning June 1, 2011. Civil unions are a new category of relationship in the State of Illinois that will be afforded with the same rights, privileges and obligations as spouses for all purposes under Illinois law. Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples may enter into a civil union in Illinois. The new civil union legislation will have a significant impact on various types of employee benefit plans. This client alert addresses the impact of the civil union law on plans maintained by religious organizations.

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