The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (Public Act 096-1513), which took effect June 1, 2011, provides civil union partners in Illinois all of the legal rights and obligations to which opposite-sex spouses are entitled under Illinois law. Employers who offer welfare benefit plans (such as health, dental and vision plans) using insurance contracts issued in Illinois are affected by the new law, as those insurance contracts must extend benefits to civil union partners to the same extent as they are offered to opposite sex spouses.
Although the law does not change the definition of marriage under Illinois law, it provides that the term "party to a civil union" "means and shall be included in, any definition or use of the terms 'spouse', 'family', 'immediate family', 'dependent', 'next of kin', and other terms that denote the spousal relationship, as those terms are used throughout the law." Additionally, the law provides that Illinois will recognize as a civil union any same-sex marriage, civil union or substantially similar legal relationship other than common law marriage entered into in other states.
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